When is a Caregiver Needed?
You’ve heard it said, “Old age isn’t for sissies.” It’s true, but appropriate assistance can go a long way toward making it a more comfortable and pleasant journey. One of the biggest obstacles is recognizing when it is time to seek help and overcoming the very human impulse to deny that need.
What are some of the signs your loved ones need assistance? If you are already doing informal caregiving, it may be time to engage formal caregivers? Below you will find a list to help you decide when to seek help and an overview of what services are available to prevent avoidable problems and stay at home or transition to a more comprehensive support environment.
Signs of Decline
Some people are plunged into the role of caregiver abruptly and unexpectedly.
A stroke, heart attack, or cancer can fell a spouse or elderly parents, and suddenly the need for caregiving is immediate and unambiguous. The slow progressive slide into disability, whether physical or mental, is not so clear cut and is fraught with denial.
Elderly parents often hide their difficulties and memory loss from their children out of embarrassment. This can have serious consequences such as forgetting or misusing medications, and, as mental sharpness declines, they may fall prey to scam artists.
Changes in behaviors that signal problems include:
- Increased forgetfulness. Memory loss, whether losing keys, missing appointments, blanking on names, or getting lost, if it is out of character, it should be explored.
- Change in sleep habits. If your someone has always fallen asleep easily and slept well, then insomnia or excessive sleeping become the norm.
- Increased accidents. Bruises and falls, dings and dents on the car, burnt meals, these tend to involve inattentiveness. When it is not the usual, seek an evaluation.
- Avoiding friends and social interaction Moving from the “life of the party” end of the spectrum to the “not going to the party” end should be cause for concern.
- Difficulty with activities of daily living. Neglect of grooming and personal hygiene, not paying bills, adopting childish eating habits (filling up on sweets, neglecting nutrition) signal mental decline or physical difficulties.
- Depression. Without admitting it to themselves or others, persons in decline are often aware that something is wrong and are scared and anxious or outright depressed.
Once you recognize there may be a problem, your first step should be an evaluation by a physician to determine what interventions are required.
Medical issues that are common in the elderly such as urinary tract infections or dehydration, which can cause brain fog, mood changes, and weakness, are treatable. Lack of physical activity also leads to weakness, but proper pain management and physical therapy often work wonders. Physical therapy can also alleviate some balance problems and help prevent falls.
Whether the issues are physical or mental, the degree of impairment will guide what assistance is needed.
In the early stages, many safety measures can be taken as a precaution to ensure home safety and to relieve stress and worry.
These include such things as:
- Engaging a daily calling service; this precaution can be a lifesaver. Family members are involved in their own lives and may forget to call. A dedicated service relieves the pressure on everyone involved.
- Carrying a cell phone or a personal alarm system is a must for anyone living alone. A personal alarm system that summons help automatically gives a greater sense of security.
- Adding grab bars and removing fall hazards such as throw rugs and clearing walkways of obstacles.