I often say that I’ve lived a number of lives throughout the course of my life. The different stages have depended on what was going on in my family at the time and what role I needed to play to best provide for the family unit. That’s how I came to work in geriatric care management, which is not a common profession for most people. You see, my husband has his master’s degree in nursing home administration and, after a stint working on the facility end of it, he decided he’d rather work as an advocate for the residents themselves. Thus, we started a company that worked to gently transition seniors into the next stage of their life, either living at home with in-home care or moving into a senior care facility. My experience taught me how crucial it is for a person to have a knowledgeable advocate working for them and how important it is for that advocate to have trusted resources at their disposal.
We’ve since moved on, but the experience has stuck with me. That’s why I took it so personally when I realized that my parents are now in the situation where I used to assist others. I consider myself fortunate because I have some idea of what to expect in the near future. My issue is that I live in a different state than my parents, and the knowledge I gained locally, while helpful on a broad scale, can only go so far when it comes to the actual details of the life transition they’re beginning. I realized I needed help and started searching for guidance, and I knew that the most important aspect of what I was facing was to find good, trustworthy help.
The reality is that while getting older is a blessing, it also brings about a wealth of challenges and questions on how to age gracefully. Unfortunately, those changes and decisions often fall onto the family of the aging person, and that can take a significant emotional, physical, and mental toll. Therefore, it’s imperative to know some of the basics of caring for a loved one.
Signs an Aging Loved One Needs Help
We all want to do what’s right for our loved ones, especially when it comes to our parents. The first step is to know the signs that they need help and then recognize when you need to step in. The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to make sure that your parents are still able to thrive on their own without any assistance, and there are some common signs to look for when making that assessment:
- Emotional changes – A shift in moods may point to pain or struggles with chronic conditions that they want to keep private but might require medical attention.
- Trouble managing medications – If your parent forgets to take their medications or keeps forgetting to get them refilled, it’s a good sign they need assistance to keep track of them.
- Inability to follow medical directions – Ignoring a doctor’s advice could lead to escalating medical issues, which might be a red flag regarding your parent’s ability to take care of themselves.
- Weight changes – Unexpected weight loss can indicate something simple, like lack of nutrition from forgetting to eat, just not eating enough, or an inadequate diet. It could also be a sign of something more serious, like cancer.
- New bruises – Parents may not share their mobility challenges, and bruises can indicate that they’re having trouble.
- Changes in sleeping patterns – A significant change in sleep patterns may indicate declining health.
- Increased confusion – Increased confusion with everyday tasks can indicate your parent needs assistance.
- Missing doctors’ appointments – Failure to schedule or attend follow-up appointments due to confusion or lack of caring can be problematic.
- Lack of grooming or a poorly maintained home – A decline in personal hygiene or home maintenance can indicate that daily tasks are becoming overwhelming and that your parent can no longer take care of themself.
- Changes in overall appearance – If your parent appears pale or is making unusual facial expressions or bodily movements, it could indicate an underlying health condition.
What You Can Do
If you start seeing the signs that your loved one isn’t taking proper care of themselves or is struggling with daily tasks, there are some helpful ways that you can step in and assist them. Start by spending more time with them, if possible, and asking gentle questions so you can hear their perspective and make sure you’re on the same page. Listen to them and be honest so you know how they feel and there are no surprises. Make sure you know who their doctors are and take precautions to make their home as safe as possible.
It’s time to get help.
There’s a reality when it comes to an aging loved one, and it’s that sometimes you can’t do everything for them. Fortunately, there are resources available that help with daily care and often are one of the primary reasons that a person can keep living in their own home. While working as a care manager, I found that this was the key component when it came to taking care of our clients because the outside caregivers that you utilize often become a key player in your loved one’s life.
One company, Care.com, was my go-to when it came down to getting in-home help for any of my clients or, in the near future, my parents. They help with grocery shopping, meal preparation, housekeeping, and perform check-ins and provide companionship. They’re especially beneficial to me now because they’re a national company, so while I incorporated their services often on a local level, I know I can still trust them when I need them in another state. I’m not sure what I’ll need for my parents, but I don’t have to worry about Care.com having a minimum number of required hours. They work around what we need, and that makes me feel like our family’s needs truly matter to them.
Most importantly – Care.com completes annual background checks for all of their caregivers, which you’d be surprised to find out isn’t always a requirement for other companies. I don’t want to know; I need to know that my parent is in good, trustworthy hands when I’m not there. They also have consistency with their caregivers so my parents can form a relationship with them, making the need to have in-home care a more seamless transition.
While we don’t want to see our parents needing additional care as they get older, we have to face the reality that they might need it at some point. Having a trusted resource like Care.com that can give you a safe, consistent, and trustworthy option can take a lot of the stress out of the process.