We Need to Talk About…

There comes a time in many people’s lives when family members need to be aware when loved ones can no longer manage their life tasks. Knowing when and how to address these issues with your loved one can be difficult, but there are signs to look for that will clue you in when your loved one is struggling.

Communication

The first thing that will help in assessing your loved one’s ability to manage their life tasks is by talking regularly with him or her. If you live nearby, make it a point to drop in at least once a week. Call several times a week just to chat for a few minutes. Keep it casual; do not make the communication seem intrusive. Be sure to share the highlights of your life with your loved one, but keep most of the conversation focused on him or her.

Observation

Some signs to observe when visiting or calling your loved one include:

  • If you drop by, is your loved one dressed for the day, or still in nightclothes? Are there piles of dirty laundry in the house?
  • Does it appear that your loved one is bathing regularly? Do you smell body odor?
  • Does the house look clean and cared for or does it look neglected? Does the home smell clean or can you detect rotten food, urine, or other unpleasant odors that signify neglect?
  • What was the last meal your loved one had and what did he/she eat? Did your loved one prepare it him/herself? If there were leftovers, are they dated and stored in the proper place (i.e. refrigerator)? Is there old or rotting food in the refrigerator and in the cabinets? Is there sufficient edible food in the house?
  • Can your loved one tell you what his/her plans for the day or week are or what he/she did yesterday? Is he/she able to remember important names and events or does trying to remember cause confusion and frustration? Is he/she making it to scheduled appointments on time?
  • Does your loved one meet with friends or groups regularly to socialize? If so, when was the last meeting? Who was there? What did they do? Does the organization have a name?
  • What are your loved one’s interests and hobbies? Has that changed dramatically recently? Has he/she lost interest in doing what used to be enjoyable activities?
  • Does your loved one drive? Where does he/she go? How often? Do you notice any new dings or dents in the car? Is there unexplained damage to the parking area? Has your loved one been in any accidents? Are you comfortable riding along while your loved one drives?
  • Has your loved one slipped, fallen, been hospitalized, or visited the ER very many times lately? Is he or she concerned about health problems? Are there bruises on your loved one that cannot be explained?
  • Is your loved one having difficulty getting up, sitting down, or performing basic household tasks that used to be easy? Is he/she able to walk and move about without losing balance?
  • What about medications? Is your loved one taking them as directed? Can he/she afford all the prescriptions? Do they get refilled as needed? What, if any, is the method for remembering to take the prescriptions?
  • Finances: Is your loved one paying the bills on time? What are the bills and is there a master list of all the monthly payments? Are there stacks of unopened mail and bills sitting around or in the mailbox? Does your loved one pay bills mostly online, by check or cash? Are there signs of bounced checks, calls or letters from bill collectors, or late payment notices?  Has your loved one been contacted by questionable people demanding payment or trying to gain personal information?
  • What is the general mental state of your loved one? Have you noticed any changes in his or her energy levels, moods, or levels of activity? Does your loved one express unusual feelings of sadness, excessive worry, loneliness, or hopelessness?
    What are your loved one’s long term plans for growing older? Is there a will, durable power of attorney, living will, advanced directive, or other end of life documentation in place? Is there a legal professional involved to answer questions about these documents?

These observations need to be made discreetly over a period of weeks or even months of regular visits and communication with your loved one. Above all, the family needs to be compassionate and loving with the aging member. Concern for his or her well-being should be top priority at all times. Once it is determined by the family that your loved one had a need for some help or in need of help, the family should come together with the loved one in a comfortable, relaxed gathering to share the concerns in a loving, caring conversation. This should not look like an intervention or ambush, but rather a loving family gathering that is focused on your loved one’s support and best interest through family involvement.

It is important during the conversation, besides noting some of the areas of concern observed over the past few months, to clarify that your loved one is still in control and has a say in what happens next. If the goal is to stay home with some help, this is a good time to suggest a consultation with an in-home caregiver. Even if the family members currently feel that they can provide the assistance needed, exploring the possibility of having occasional outside help early on can help all involved ease into the reality should the time come that the family caregivers do
need more help.
If you have questions about in-home care giving or are ready to schedule a free, in home consultation in the Tyler, Texas area, please call Home-Aid Caregivers, Ltd. at (903) 533-1300.