Caring for an aging parent or another loved one – near or from afar – can be tricky, especially when a loved one’s needs change more unexpectedly. This can often happen with a sudden injury or illness, cognitive decline, or be the natural result of aging that has gone unnoticed until a recent visit or event.
The holiday season, and more time with loved ones typically planned, presents a unique opportunity for those in a caregiver role to take special notice of early warning signs that a loved could need added support and take those important next steps needed for all involved.
While there are many things to keep in mind, here are a few common signs to be on the lookout for.
Neglected household chores like a sink full of dirty dishes, laundry piling up, expired food lurking in the fridge and pantry, or even unpaid bills and mail piling up are all indicators that living alone and without assistance may no longer be the best option for a person.
Sudden weight loss or gain, reduced mobility, even a lapse with personal hygiene are great signs to be on the lookout for. You may also check the medicine cabinet for prescriptions and ensure they are in order, not expired, and that the right amount is being taken based on the fill date.
Another early important sign to look for is your loved one wearing the same outfit every time you interact with him/her. This could be a sign of forgetfulness, or a physical sign of having difficulty completing daily tasks such as dressing and undressing.
If your parent or loved one is staying home more, skipping get-togethers with friends or family, or not going to community events they once loved, take note and see if you can explore the reasons why. You may also notice if someone seems less engaged or lacking their typical energy levels. An important indicator of a change in emotional health could be increased sleep levels paired with change in eating habits.
Take note and seek help if anything feels off and out of character. And if you have a family member that is very private about their current health concerns or cognitive changes, you may want to reach out to friends and neighbors to help observe changes to make thoughtful and informed decisions.
There are many ways to support a loved one who may need additional help such as in-home care, engaging more family members, or even taking the next step to move into senior housing or assisted living.
As you’re navigating it all, there is an often-overlooked option for respite care. A respite – or temporary – stay is commonly used after a recent hospital visit or surgery but can also be an option for families in transition. Often offered at an assisted living or memory care community, the resident is welcomed in and able to enjoy all care and amenities for their stay and evaluate if they could call the community home in the future.
Respite stays can also be helpful if you decide to move a loved one home with you and need a short break or if you decide to have your loved one remain in their home, but you aren’t able to be a primary caregiver during certain times of the year. While you may be met with some resistance at first, most people find the company, added care, dining options and activities are a breath of fresh air and give them something to look forward to each day.
No matter the case, there is no one size fits all for any family. Take the time with your loved one and for yourself to determine what support they ideally need and consult their healthcare provider to ensure your bases are all covered. Support exists, and it’s never too early (or too late) to get what you need.
Have you noticed any changes when visiting your aging loved one recently? Are you aware of your options for care? Have you discussed plans with your loved one? Do you have a good understanding of what they most want? Do you have your own support system and list of resources to guide you?
Tags Healthy Aging