When Does a Person Need Help At Home?
In six months to a year a lot of changes can occur with the elderly. When families visit during the holiday season they become acutely aware of the decline in some areas of functioning. I noticed that as my parents aged in their home, and during my infrequent visits changes had occurred.
I began noticing that my Mom’s home was not as tidy and clean as it used to be. There were increasingly more piles of stuff, mail and paper laying about. I noticed that the quantity and quality of the meals had decreased, and the food was more fast food or frozen food with minimal nutritional value.
There were other telltale signs that they were both “slowing down” in their ability to care for themselves. These signs don’t usually require drastic action, but are indicators that children should start having a dialogue with their elderly parents to explore options to facilitate safe aging in place.
Here are some questions to consider.
Examine the home environment.
- Home maintenance- Is the home in need of light repairs, or painting?
- Home Safety-Is there adequate lighting, are burnt out light bulbs being replaced, are smoke detectors checked annually and batteries replaced, are there hazards in walkways or are they clear and safe?
- Yard maintenance- Is the grass being cut, trees and hedges trimmed, fences maintained, outdoor light bulbs changed, are sidewalk paths to the house maintained and clear of debris, and overgrown hedges?
- House cleaning-Is the inside of the home clean and tidy, is there an increasing accumulation of stuff, papers and piles of mail or clothes.
- Are the floors and counter-top clean and clutter free?
Daily Living Needs
- Bathing and showering-Have there been any falls related to bathing and showering?
- Is the bathroom and shower area safe with grip mat on the shower floor, a shower stool or chair, handheld shower, and appropriate placed grab bars, raised toilet seat, and adequate lighting?
- Often there is a decrease in the frequency of bathing and showering, because the elderly may have experienced a near fall, or fall, and want to minimize any further risk of falling.
Food and Nutrition
- Is the fridge adequately stocked with the basics or are there a lot of expired foods in the fridge and pantry?
- How many meals are being eaten per day, and what type of food is eaten?
- Is breakfast a couple of cookies and a cup of coffee?
- Are there fresh fruits and vegetables in the fridge?
- Do you notice that the elderly person has lost weight?
- Who is arranging doctor appointments?
- Does the elderly person require an escort or transportation to appointments?
- Are they going to the dentist on a regular basis?
- Who is placing orders for medications and refills, who is picking them up, and does the senior have accurate knowledge about the various dosages and times medication are to be taken?
- Is there a routine for regular physical activity and exercise?
- Are bills being paid every month?
- Are taxes being paid?
- Does the senior need assistance with organizing and paying monthly bills?
- Who does the financial planning and who assists with managing investments to minimize the risk of exploitation?
These areas of the senior’s life pertaining to the home environment, daily living needs, health care and financial needs can be easily assessed. When you notice deficits in functioning in these areas begin a non-threatening dialogue. Help the senior in your life focus on the potential change in their home environment as a new phase of life and a new experience, not the end of their independence. The conversation should focus on the ability to age in place without compromising quality of life, and most of all to maintain independence.
At AA Care Services, a non medical home care agency, a care management nurse will assist the family in assessing all of the above areas to facilitate safe aging in the home. In our role as client advocates we can assist the senior and families to begin planning for changes in the home environment before an urgent need or crisis occurs.
Want to find out more?
Helen Trowsdale, President of AA Care Services, is a nurse administrator with over 30 years of experience as a BSN, psychiatric nurse, and geriatric care manager with adults as well as pediatrics in hospitals, private duty home health care agencies, and residential home health care. Her team of caregivers are dedicated to serving their clients with home care in San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Austin; providing clients with consistent, quality care while minimizing the number of caregivers in the home. Learn more about AA Care Services.