Most older individuals are happy, healthy and self-reliant. However, the aging process eventually brings about physical and mental changes that can interfere with an active and independent lifestyle.
A decline in functional abilities doesn’t always necessitate a move to assisted living or a nursing home, but it does indicate a need for extra help to support a senior’s desire to age in place. Family members often step in to provide support and supervision, but hiring in-home help may be necessary at some point to address an elder’s increasing care needs.
Like most care decisions, knowing when to take this step can be difficult. One tip that experienced family caregivers often share with peers seeking advice in the Caregiver Forum is, “If you’re already wondering when it’s time to seek out more help, then the time is probably now.” Ultimately, adding a companion, personal care assistant or home health aide to your care team will benefit you and your loved one.
Consider the following factors to determine if home care could help your parents safely age in place.
Your Loved One’s Care Needs Are Increasing
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 elder is no longer willing or able to complete 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 dirty clothes and not doing her hair. These are just two real-life examples of the many definitive signs a senior needs help at home. Other signs include inadequate fresh food in the house, 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 give family members pause. 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 indicates it is time to step in. A noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care is a sure sign that a senior is struggling physically and/or mentally to meet their own needs.
New or worsening health issues often indicate that a senior requires a full medical workup and could benefit from increased assistance at home. A home health care provider can help an aging loved one monitor their vital signs, manage chronic medical conditions, navigate their complex medication regimen, participate in therapy exercises that improve independence, and care for wounds.
You’re Experiencing Caregiver Stress or 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 family caregivers to recognize the signs of caregiver burnout and acknowledge when they need to share the workload.
When the level of care a loved one requires becomes more than you can handle, or your level of involvement negatively impacts your work, relationships, finances and/or health, then it is time to look into respite care. Hiring a caregiver for in-home help may be the best solution for everyone involved since it provides both you and your loved one with the support you need in a familiar environment.
How to Start the Conversation About In-Home Help for Seniors
If you’ve noticed the red flags above in your loved one and/or yourself, the time to discuss in-home care is sooner rather than later. Do not wait until a crisis occurs.
Sadly, elder care can be a delicate topic that many older adults would prefer to avoid. So, how do you bring up sensitive subjects related to aging? Home Instead Senior Care, an American-based multinational network of franchises specializing in home-based care, offers the following tips and conversation starters to 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 you can do to help and what they think would be viable solutions. If a senior does not recognize the problem or shrugs it off, use concrete examples to support your concerns. (Refrain from correcting or arguing with dementia patients who may not be capable of recognizing their impairment.)
- 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. Not only would these services reduce your stress levels, but they can also help extend your loved one’s independence and delay or prevent placement in a long-term care facility.
- Remember that 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 help at home 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 (also known as an Aging Life Care Professional), 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 home care.
Hiring In-Home Care for Elderly Loved Ones: What’s Next?
Before you begin your search for a home care provider, it’s important to understand the different types of services that are available and determine which would be the best addition to your loved one’s care plan.
From there, use the guide below to help you select the provider that fits your needs and budget. Assure your loved one that they will be able to participate in interviewing potential providers, deciding which company to hire and selecting home health aides. 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 to help you to make confident caregiving decisions.
Ready to find home care for your loved one? AgingCare can assist you in your search. A trained Care Advisor will discuss your needs and arrange interviews with local providers free of charge.
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