When I tell people I run a home care agency for the elderly, many people ask me how they will know when their elderly loved one needs assistance. So I made a list of the things in which, in my experience, are definite signs that help – in whatever form you choose-is needed.
1. Neglecting themselves by not bathing or brushing teeth or combing hair. You will notice body odor, bad breath, or a general appearance of looking unkept. They may have sores on their skin or infected toenails due to negligence.
2. Has there been a change in appetite? Weight loss? Missing meals or eating inappropriately (just eating candy or having ice cream for breakfast). No signs of cooking being done.
3. The cleanliness of the home is a big tip off and often the first and earliest sign things are slipping. Dirt and grime go unseen due to poor eyesight, vacuuming, scrubbing the bathtub or mopping cannot be done because of physical limitations, etc.
4. Personality changes such as talking too loudly or unable to contribute appropriately to a conversation. They may be listless or ask you to repeat the same thing a dozen times in an hour. There may also be angry denials that anything is wrong.
5. Do you see examples of forgetfulness? Mailbox overflowing with mail, newspapers piling up in yard, utilities being shut off for non payment are common signs.
6. No longer able to grasp their finances. Bills may not be paid or paid twice. Checkbook no longer balanced. Not depositing Social Security check or other funds.
7. Evidence of physical harm such as burns from the stove or water, bruises or cuts from falls or urinary tract infections from lack of hygiene all point to someone who is no longer safe by themselves.
8. No longer interacting with friends or neighbors, no longer attending the usual social events and not interested in former hobbies are all clues something has changed with your loved one.
9. Spending all day watching infomercials or the shopping channels and making large, unnecessary purchases that begin to pile up—many times unopened is very common with women.
10. Forgetting to take or taking wrong amount of their medicine means they are no longer able to keep up with which pill should be taken at what time. We also may be “self medicating” with alcohol.
Even one of these signs is a cause for concern and a time to be proactive!! Begin discussing need for assistance and learning about the different types of care available (home care, nursing home, etc.)