Most seniors 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 independent lifestyle.
When Does a Senior Need Help at Home?
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 a senior’s desire to age in place. Family members often step in to provide support and supervision, but hiring a professional caregiver for in-home help may be necessary at some point to address an elder’s increasing care needs. Ultimately, involving a home health aide can benefit both the senior and their family caregivers.
Recognize the Signs That an Aging Loved One Needs Help at Home
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 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 dirty 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 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 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 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 skilled help 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.
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 caregiver 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 a home health aide may be the best solution for everyone involved.
How to Start the Conversation About Hiring Help at Home
If you’ve noticed the red flags above in yourself or your loved one, the time to start talking about hiring non-medical home care services and/or home health care is sooner rather than later. Do not wait until a crisis occurs. Sadly, elder care can be a delicate topic that many seniors wish 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 non-medical home-based care, offers some tips and conversation starters that might help overcome the awkwardness.
Tips for Talking About In-Home Care With Seniors
- 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.
- Seniors will often go to great lengths to maintain their independence. Instead of focusing on how your loved one needs the extra help at home, 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 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 Help at Home: What’s Next?
Hiring a home care company is the next step in helping a loved one remain safe, healthy and happy at home. You can choose non-medical home care or home health care, depending on a senior’s unique and changing needs. Best of all, these services are delivered in the comfort of a client’s own home.
Use the guide below to help you select the home care company or home health care provider that fits your needs and budget. 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 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 that can enable you to make confident caregiving decisions that support both you and your loved one.