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Right at Home – 20 Warning Signs Your Loved One Needs Help at Home

Article By Adam Hurwood | | Financial Planning
Maybe you’ve noticed that your loved one’s unopened mail is piling up in the letterbox or at the front door. Or your loved one, once meticulous about her appearance, is wearing wrinkled clothes and not doing her hair. Perhaps there are unexplained bruises on your older loved one’s arms. When you bring up the subject, you hear, “Everything is fine. There’s no need to worry.”

For your loved one to admit they need help may mean they can’t take care of themselves anymore, and no one wants other people to think that. The vast 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, as for them, 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. Admitting they need help and accepting assistance is not easy for people as they age. It represents a loss of control and independence. Denial plays a major role – and the warning signs get ignored.

The person 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.

Identifying a 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. If they’re not willing to admit it, how do you know if your elderly loved one needs help?

Here are signs that may indicate your loved one needs help at home:

1) Spoiled food that doesn’t get thrown away
2) Missing important appointments
3) Dishes piling up in the sink or dishwasher
4) Unexplained bruising
5) Trouble getting up from a seated position
6) Difficulty with walking, balance and mobility
7) Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
8) Forgetfulness
9) Unpleasant body odour
10) Infrequent showering and bathing
11) Strong smell of urine in the house
12) Noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care
13) Dirty house, extreme clutter and dirty laundry piling up
14) Stacks of unopened mail or an overflowing mailbox
15) Late payment notices, bounced checks and calls from bill collectors
16) Poor diet, loss of appetite or weight loss
17) Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
18) Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
19) Forgetting to take medications – or taking more than the prescribed dosage
20) 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 aging, 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 the 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.

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