Today, there are many care options available to seniors depending on where they are in terms of independence and level of care needed. One person may still live in their home and only need help with light housekeeping and medication reminders, whereas another may live in an assisted living community and need help bathing, dressing and preparing meals. Fortunately, there are many care options available today to help seniors age happily in place and live life to the fullest regardless of limitations.
Fear of change and losing one’s independence are common reasons seniors resist in-home assistance or leaving their homes. When in reality, the right level of care can increase independence, sense of well-being, social interaction and happiness.
Care options may include a combination of caregivers, professional home health services, independent and assisted living communities, memory care communities and in-home hospice care. How do you know what’s right? Where do you start? The first step is to discuss current and future care needs.
The ideal time to have a conversation about future care and living arrangements is before help is needed. However, many people avoid this until a crisis occurs, such as a fall with injury, and then feel rushed and unprepared about what options are available and what to do next.
The professionals at Georgetown Living Home Health can assist in determining the level of care needed and what options may be best.
Regardless of age, we all value our independence so the last thing you want is for your loved one to feel forced into a situation. Often having a conversation with them about options and “what if” scenarios will give them the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings. It’s important to be sensitive and empathetic concerning their fears and feelings. Remain loving, positive and reassuring that help may only be temporary and will return to normal, or you’ll deal with the “new” normal together.
Many seniors who opt to stay in their homes believe assistance from their family as they age will be enough. That may be true while still somewhat independent; however, as aging progresses, the level of care required may exceed the time and ability of families to care for loved ones. Also, the home needs to be safe and provide opportunities for socialization and mental stimulation. Therefore, having the right assistance or a different living situation may be safer and meet their physical, mental and social needs better than staying in their home.
In general, the key consideration is safety and providing an environment that supports physical, mental and social needs.
- Do they struggle with activities of daily living (ADLs)?
Can they cook for themselves? Do their laundry? Clean the house? Shop for groceries? If no, an in-home care giver or higher level of care is indicated.
- Are they eating properly?
Do they mostly eat takeout or frozen meals? Has their weight changed? The inability to prepare meals and make healthy food choices may indicate a higher level of care is needed. An in-home caregiver or higher level of care may help.
- Are there hygiene issues?
Have they stopped taking care of themselves like they used to? Are their clothes dirty? Do they have body odor? These can be signs someone is having a hard time bathing, which puts them at risk of infection and increases the likelihood of mental and emotional decline. Problems with self-care or other activities of daily living (ADLs) indicate a higher level of care is needed.
- Do they have gait, balance or mobility problems? A recent fall?
Do they have trouble walking unassisted? Can they get up and down stairs without help? If they fell, could they get up? How long would they lay there if a phone or medical device was not within reach? An in-home caregiver, home health physical therapy and a higher level of care may help.
- Can they safely drive? Has there been a car accident or a series of fender benders?
Driving is a safety issue. If they can no longer drive, or use public transportation, assistance is needed. Consider a caregiver or assisted living community that provides transportation to doctor’s appointments and social events could help them stay mobile without the risk.
- Does their home require frequent maintenance they can’t perform?
Although they might enjoy owning a home, the upkeep may be more than they can handle. Talk to them about whether they’d prefer to live in a place where they won’t have to worry about maintenance and upkeep.
- Is the house unusually dirty or cluttered?
If they can’t keep up with housework, an in-home caregiver or assisted living community could provide a more sanitary living space.
- Are pets well cared for?
An inability to take care of animals might be a sign of immobility or cognitive problems. An in-home caregiver may help and most independent and assisted living facilities allow pets.
- Are they taking longer to recover after an injury or illness?
Do chronic health issues seem to be getting worse? This can be a sign of a weakening immune system, and it might indicate a higher level care may be needed soon.
- Are they taking prescribed medications as instructed?
If no, find out why. Is it a financial issue or do they forget? Confusion can be dangerous with certain medications and a higher level of care is indicated. If concerned about prescription costs, a Medicare supplemental insurance program may help.
- Have they gotten lost? Forget what every day items are for?
Wandering is often a sign of dementia; if this problem persists, talk to your loved one and their doctor. Often, people who have dementia benefit from living in an assisted living facility with a memory care unit designed to make their life safer and ease anxiety and confusion.
- Have they become short-tempered, unusually angry or violent?
Aggressive behavior may be associated with confusion and dementia, which might indicate they need to move to an assisted living facility.
- Are they isolated or withdrawn?
Have they stopped doing activities they used to enjoy? Go days without leaving the house? If so, talk to them about why. It could be fear, lack of friends or activities or depression. Living in a community setting may help.
- Are they able to manage their daily finances?
This could be a sign of financial difficulties or, if they’re confused by the mail, it could be dementia.
- Do they seem withdrawn or losing interest in things that used to bring they joy?
Even if they’re capable of caring for themselves, they might be ready for a change. If they don’t seem happy, ask whether a change in their living situation could improve things.
- Do they see friends and family regularly?
Is there someone who regularly checks in on your loved one and visits their home? Do they keep regular social engagements or have peers they can relate to? Socialization is very important as we age and care should be focused on increasing social activities.
- Have their friends or neighbors expressed any concerns to you?
If that’s the case, talk to them about what they observe. They may have noticed things that would tell you it’s time for your loved one to receive more care.
- Can family caregivers provide all of their needs?
Being a caregiver is hard work, both physically and emotionally. If you or another relative are caring for your loved one full time, it may become impossible for the caregiver to provide adequate care. If that’s the case, your loved one may benefit from an assisted living community.
Source: ConsumerAffairs.com, Jamie Barnett Ph.D., 2019