For most people, the word “home” conjures up good feelings of safety, warmth and love. Nearly 90 percent of seniors say that home is where they want to be.
One of the reasons for wanting to stay home is fear of the potential loss of independence. They want to maintain their lifestyle.
They don’t want to be dependent, so they deny their need for assistance and might make poor decisions that negatively impact their health and safety.
It is important to look for signs that these seniors might need help. If these warning signs are ignored, it could very well lead to the kind of dependence they are trying to avoid.
Warning signs can be divided into three categories: Physical symptoms and mental or emotional changes, loss of attention, or environmental clues.
Physical or emotional changes might be:
- Persistent fatigue and loss of energy
- Loss of interest in their usual social activities or hobbies
- A major change in mood or attitude
- Difficulty getting up, standing, decreased balance or unsteady walking
- Loss of weight or diminished appetite
Loss of attention:
- Changes in physical appearance and hygiene
- Diminished driving skills, poor car maintenance
- Difficulty concentrating or memory loss
- Poor judgment
Environmental changes could be:
- Poor housekeeping and lack of home maintenance
- Spoiled or expired food in refrigerator, freezer or drawers
- Evidence of spilled food, soiled carpet, clutter
- Stacks of mail or unpaid bills
- Loose towel rods from pulling up to stand
All the above are clues that the senior needs assistance to remain at home. So what do you do about your concerns?
- Share your concerns with your loved one.
- Encourage a medical checkup. Determine if he or she is taking medications as ordered and drinking lots of water to avoid dehydration.
- Do a safety check of the home to avoid falls. Do adaptations need to be made, especially in the kitchen and bathroom?
If your loved one is having difficulty with household tasks, personal grooming, preparing meals, housekeeping or needs transportation, consider home care services to help them remain in their home where they really want to be.
Let your loved one know you are acting out of concern and trying to help them maintain independence. Community services to deliver meals may be available. In some areas neighbors help neighbors through volunteers who provide occasional transportation or weekly “check-in” calls. The home safety check on www.caregiverstress.com is also a great resource.
When you care about someone, you don’t want to recognize diminishing capacities. Be her advocate and protect her from falls, hazards, medication errors, anything harmful. After all, if she was your child you would certainly make sure she was safe and healthy. Why not do the same for your senior loved ones?
Rachel Carson, Certified Senior Advisor, is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care serving The Lowcountry since 1997.