For your loved one, asking for help may mean admitting they can't take care of themselves anymore, and no one wants other people to think that.
Maybe you've noticed that your loved one's unopened mail is piling up in the letterbox or at the front door. Or your Mom, once meticulous about her appearance, is wearing wrinkled clothes and not doing her hair. Perhaps there are unexplained bruises on your Dad's arms. When you bring up the subject, you hear, "Everything is fine. There's no need to worry."
For your loved one, asking for help may mean admitting they can't take care of themselves anymore, and no one wants other people to think that. The major of older Australians want to stay at home for as long as possible. They live in fear of ending up in a nursing home, or as they see it, that is the final chapter in their lives. Very often they live in the unrealistic hope that a problem is not really happening and will go away by itself.
Some older Australians may not have a support system provided by a spouse or adult children. The family may be spread far and wide and, therefore, do not see the changes taking place with their parents. Sometimes the warning signs are noticed by friends or neighbours or the family advisor / financial planner.
Where families are separated by distance, the burden often falls on friends or family advisors to recognise the signs that a person might need help with daily living tasks. Family financial planners, solicitors and accountants are in a unique position to speak to their clients, to notice forgetfulness or disorientation, while those that travel to the home see living conditions first hand.
Identifying a client, friend or loved one in need of help doesn't necessarily mean that they have to go to an assisted living facility or a nursing home, but they may need some extra help in their home. Home care is really about restoring independence and assisting people to continue doing the things they love - for a family, its also about peace of mind.
If they're not willing to admit it, how do you know if the elderly person needs help?
If you are visiting parents over the upcoming festive season here's an opportunity to pay close attention.
Here are signs that may indicate your friend, client or loved one needs help at home.
- Spoiled food that doesn't get thrown away
- Missing important appointments
- Dishes piling up in the sink or dishwasher
- Unexplained bruising
- Trouble getting up from a seated position
- Difficulty with walking, balance and mobility
- Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
- Unpleasant body odour
- Infrequent showering and bathing
- Strong smell of urine in the house
- Noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care
- Dirty house, extreme clutter and dirty laundry piling up
- Stacks of unopened mail or an overflowing mailbox
- Late payment notices, bounced checks and calls from bill collectors
- Poor diet, loss of appetite or weight loss
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
- Forgetting to take medications – or taking more than the prescribed dosage
- Unexplained dents and scratches on a car.
How do you start the conversation about home care?
If you've noticed the warning signs, it's time to start talking with older loved ones sooner rather than later, before a crisis has occurred. But how do you bring up sensitive subjects related to ageing, such as the need for home care? Right at Home recommends some conversation starters that might help overcome the awkwardness.
Approach your loved one with a conversation. Discuss what you've observed and ask them what they think is going on. If your loved one acknowledges the situation, ask what they think would be a good solution. If your loved one doesn't recognise a problem, use concrete examples to support your case.
Remember you are talking to an adult, not a child. Patronising speech or baby talk will put older adults on the defensive and convey a lack of respect for them. Put yourself in your loved one's shoes and think of how you would want to be addressed in the situation.
Suggest a few alternative strategies. Talk about things that have interested them in past and why their interest has waned. Suggest returning to a hobby or interest with a bit of help to get started. Ask when last they saw close friends. Suggest arranging a visit over tea or coffee. Better still, arrange to meet at a favourite coffee shop.
Just a few hours of home care a week will make the difference between ending up in a nursing home or worse, being admitted to hospital after an adverse event such as a fall.
A little bit of help goes a very long way.
For advice on home care call Right at Home on 1300 362 609.