Thanksgiving is here and the December holidays are right behind. It’s the time of year families will gather together to celebrate annual traditions, often seeing each other for the first time in months, or even longer.
With increased time spent with aging family members, the holidays may also reveal signs that someone living alone may no longer be able to care for themselves. It might be the time to discuss options to keep the family member living independently, with a plan that often can often include in-home care and/or outpatient services.
Before decisions can be made, families need to properly assess and evaluate a loved one’s needs. It is far less stressful to address changes before a crisis occurs, exploring potential options when your loved one can participate in the plan and understand the reason for the suggestions. Many older folks resist; they don’t want to lose their independence, or they don’t want to face the changes they see happening with their health. Bringing them into the conversation and discussing all the alternatives can open their minds to the understanding that such assistance will keep them safe and will also allow the family to be at relative ease.
It is important to discuss all appropriate options with your loved one. Depending on their need, these options can include skilled nursing care, Assisted Living, Adult Day Care or Home Care. One or the other may seem more appropriate (and more palatable to your loved one and you) and it is then that you can establish a plan. In this way, when the time comes, the transition may occur with greater ease.
Many times there are triggers that move a family toward a transition to additional support. When gathering this holiday season with an elderly loved one, be alert for these common indicators:
• Forgetfulness: Does your loved one forget to take medications or are they taking incorrectly? Have you found medications on the floor?
• Balance problems: Does the individual have difficulty ambulating? Have there been moments of instability when standing? Has he or she actually fallen?
• Food issues: Does your loved one have difficulty preparing meals independently? Does he or she become short of breath during the activity, burn foods or leave burners/oven on? Have you found spoiled food in the refrigerator?
• Poor personal care: When it comes to personal hygiene, , does your loved one shower regularly? Are clothes changed on a daily basis?
• Mood changes: Has the individual become withdrawn, depressed, have a loss of appetite or weight loss? Is he or she hesitant to go out, or to participate in family activities?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, it may be time to discuss help , so your loved one can continue to live safely at home.
Many times, Gurwin Home Care Agency will be called simply to explore a future possibility of needing our services. I always counsel them that we are here to be a resource and to answer any questions they may have as they move through the process. We can help determine the best level of care for a loved one, to be sure they are in a safe and healthy living situation.
Author Nancy Geiger is the director of the Gurwin Home Care Agency. She is happy to help anyone trying to find appropriate care situation for a loved one: call her at 631-493-1282 or 516-539-2300 or visit http://www.gurwin.org.