Who Needs Home Care?

Most individuals over age 65 are happy, healthy and fully independent. However, by its very nature, the aging process eventually brings about physical and mental changes that can interfere with an active and self-sufficient lifestyle.

A change in functioning doesn't have to necessitate a move to assisted living or a nursing home, but it does indicate a need for extra help to support one’s desire to age in place. Oftentimes, the responsibility of providing supportive care falls on family members, but hiring outside help may be necessary at some point to address increasing care needs. Ultimately, involving a professional caregiver can benefit both the senior and their family caregivers.

Recognize the Signs that an Aging Loved One Needs Help

Changes in personal appearance and household cleanliness typically indicate a shift in physical and/or mental status. Even subtle behavioral changes may imply that an individual is no longer capable of completing once familiar tasks without support. Maybe you've noticed that Dad's unopened mail is piling up or that Grandma, once meticulous about her appearance, is wearing wrinkled clothes and not doing her hair. These are just two real-life examples of the many definitive signs that an individual’s functional abilities are in decline.

It is often apparent upon arrival at a loved one’s home that things have gone awry. Household chores can become challenging for a number of reasons, but when upkeep has stopped to the point of extreme clutter and unsanitary conditions, it is a clear warning that outside help is required for maintaining health and safety in the home. Other signs include inadequate food in the house or evidence of weight loss, forgetting to take medications, and unexplained bruising that often points to changes in mobility.

Deviation from established personal hygiene routines is one of the most common red flags that family members observe. Although seniors may not bathe as frequently as they did when they were younger, a strong smell of urine or body odor or refusal to change out of dirty clothes, indicate it is time to step in. A noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care is a sure sign that a senior is struggling.

Recognize the Signs of Caregiver Burnout

If you are currently helping your loved one with grocery shopping, housekeeping, transportation to appointments, or managing their medications, be honest about how this added responsibility is affecting you, your family, and your schedule. Caregiving is emotionally demanding and physically exhausting. It is important for caregivers to recognize the signs of burnout and acknowledge when it is time to share the workload. If the level of care a loved one requires has become more than you can handle, or your level of involvement is causing anxiety or depression, hiring outside help may be the best solution for everyone involved.

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How to Start the Conversation about Hiring Home Care

If you've noticed the red flags in yourself or your loved one, the time to start talking about hiring home care is sooner rather than later. Do not wait until a crisis occurs. But how do you bring up sensitive subjects related to aging? Home Instead Senior Care, an American-based multinational network of franchises specializing in non-medical home-based care, offers some conversation starters that might help overcome the awkwardness.

Discuss what you've observed and ask your loved one what they think is going on. If they acknowledge the situation, ask what they think would be viable solutions. If they do not recognize a problem or shrug it off, use concrete examples to support your concerns.

Seniors will often go to great lengths to maintain their independence. Instead of focusing on how your loved one needs the extra help, emphasize that home care would actually be beneficial for you, too. Focus on the shared advantages of having an “extra pair of hands” available on a regular basis.

Remember, you are having a conversation with an adult, not talking to a child. Put yourself in their shoes and think of how you would want to be addressed in this situation. Patronizing speech will only put older adults on the defensive and convey disrespect.

Perhaps it would help to defer to an authority on this matter. Speak with their doctor about what you have observed. A physician who understands and shares your concerns will reinforce that accepting assistance is a crucial part of safely aging in place. Other sources of support in this decision might include a hospital social worker, a geriatric care manager, a respected friend, or an Area Agency on Aging community representative. These individuals can serve as a neutral third party and more effectively present the benefits of hiring outside assistance.

Hiring In-Home Care: What’s Next?

Hiring a home care company is the next step in helping a loved one remain safe, healthy and happy at home. These services can be medical or non-medical in nature, are easily customized to meet a person’s unique and changing needs, and are delivered in the client’s own home.

Use the guide below to help you select the home care company that fits your needs and budget.

Read: How to Select a Home Care Company

Assure your loved one that they will be able to participate throughout the process of interviewing potential providers, deciding which company to hire and selecting a caregiver. This involvement will help them retain a sense of control over their situation and feel more comfortable when the services actually begin.

Caring for aging adults will always pose challenges and tough choices regarding their safety and independence. Fortunately, there are many resources available that can enable you to make confident caregiving decisions.