Elderly Care

By Catherine McNulty

August 18, 2014 5 min read

As the population ages, elder care is becoming a pressing issue for many families. The time to decide what kind of elder care your loved ones should have is well before they actually need it. This is not a decision that should be made hastily. As tough as it is to have that kind of conversation, it must be had. So sit down with your loved ones and go over the worst-case scenario. It's important to get their input on how they want to spend their twilight years while they still have a sound mind and body.

Even with a plan in place, it can be hard to determine when an elder needs to go to an assisted-care facility. Elderly people taken out of their homes are more likely to suffer from depression, and for many aging people, this transition can mark the beginning of a sharp decline. But when it is no longer feasible to continue caring for your loved one, you need to get professional help. Don't waste your time feeling guilty. Focus instead on finding your loved one the best care.

So how do you gauge when your loved one needs more care than can be provided by family or in the home? This can be especially difficult if your parent is an independent person, or if you do not live close by. This is why it is so important to keep tabs on them, even if it is from afar. The signs and symptoms can be subtle, especially in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

To properly assess the situation, you'll need to spend some time with your parent. Take note of their physical being. Have they gotten frailer? Are they not caring for themselves: not bathing, not eating, having trouble dressing? If you suspect something is wrong, it is not the time to be polite. Investigate the house. Is your normally fastidiously clean parent letting grime and clutter accumulate? Is someone who has spent his or her life preparing homemade meals living off microwaveable dinners? If they have a chronic medical condition, are they managing their medications?

Are they not dealing with the business of daily life? Look for unsorted stacks of mail, overgrown lawns, and, if they have a pet, check to see how it is faring. Check into their finances. One of the first signs of mental decline can be reckless spending or being taken advantage of by scammers. Do they have trouble following a conversation? Are there tasks they used to do easily that they now have trouble completing?

All of these things can be symptomatic of a larger problem. It can be hard to watch your parents decline, and it's never easy to admit your parent or parents may no longer be able to care for themselves. But it is in everyone's best interest to be honest about it and deal with the situation.

What if your parent or loved one is in relatively good health but his life is lacking in some way? Or is he a bit overwhelmed by it? Social interactions are an important part of life, and someone who has spent decades having children, family and friends in close contact can get lonely and depressed as children move away and friends die. Many senior-living centers aren't the weigh station to death that they were back in the day. Some senior-living centers feel more like a cruise, with medical help in close proximity.

Ask your mother if she is getting out and what her hobbies are. Staying shut in the house for days on end can lead to a host of mental health problems and heighten current ones. If they are having trouble staying social, especially if they no longer drive or have access to public transportation, they could benefit from the social schedules many homes offer.

How do you find the right home for your parent or loved one? Research, research, research. Get recommendations from friends and hospitals. With the proper permission, talk to your parent's doctor. And don't just take someone's word for it. Visit the places you are considering. Often glossy photos in brochures don't translate into real life. Ask for a schedule of activities and go back when these activities should be taking place to see how many residents participate.

Above all, try to respect your parents' or loved ones' wishes. Asking for help can be difficult and embarrassing. Make sure whatever the outcome, they are well-cared-for.

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