Info for the Family

Home Home Care Home care 101 Info for the Family

I’m worried my loved one is not safe at home. What should I do?

Perhaps you’ve noticed that your loved one’s home has become much messier than it used to be, or that he or she is wearing stained, dirty clothes. Maybe it’s clear that your loved one hasn’t had a bath for a while. Or when you open the refrigerator, there is hardly any food inside. Or you may be worried about a recent fall or seeing a pan burning on the stove.

It can be frightening and painful to see a loved one who is losing the ability to care for him- or herself. Sometimes, declines can happen gradually. Or a sudden change in health, recent fall, depression, or loss of a key local support can trigger difficulty. Regardless of the reason, if you’re worried about safety or the condition of the home, it’s important to bring it up with your loved one and begin the process of supporting them.

Talking to your parents

It can be hard for any of us to accept difficult truths, especially when it comes to our own abilities. As our parents age, they will slowly lose their independence. They may face memory loss or even chronic disease; everyday tasks such as preparing a meal or driving to the store could pose a risk. Your primary concern is for their safety, but you also respect their desire for independence.

At Global Health, we have helped thousands of families navigate the process of aging. We create personalized care plans for seniors so they receive the lifestyle assistance, personal care and companionship that suits their needs, while maintaining as much independence as possible. We provide families with peace of mind and older adults with security and comfort. Our framework for an open and honest discussion about home care can help you and your loved one recognize the need for care and understand how it can positively impact lives.

Signs That Your Parents Need Care at Home:

Increasing Forgetfulness

You might notice that dad is always searching for his car keys or mom has trouble remembering appointments. Though it is natural for older adults to become more forgetful, it could also be an early warning sign for Alzheimer’s.

Messy Home

You might notice that the garbage is not being taken out, dishes are left undone or laundry is piling up. A messy home may indicate that daily activities such as cooking and cleaning have become difficult for your parents.

Poor Hygiene

You might notice that mom is no longer taking care of herself or dad hasn’t brushed his teeth in a few days. Poor hygiene could be the result of Alzheimer’s, depression or other conditions.

Falls or Injuries

You might notice bruising and other discoloration even though dad won’t admit to falling. Frequent falls could be a sign that your loved one has diminished motor skills, has difficulty walking or balancing by themselves or suffers from vertigo or nausea.

Changes in Personality

You might notice that mom has become withdrawn or moody and no longer enjoys the hobbies and activities she used to participate in. Changes in personality can be indicative of Alzheimer’s or depression caused by the aging process and loss of independence.

Social Isolation

You might notice bruising and other discoloration even though dad won’t admit to falling. Frequent falls could be a sign that your loved one has diminished motor skills, has difficulty walking or balancing by themselves or suffers from vertigo or nausea.

Tips on talking to your loved one

Try to find the real reasons behind resistance:

A seemingly resistant loved one could be frightened that he or she is no longer able to do tasks that were formerly so easy, or chronic untreated pain may be making it difficult. It might be more comfortable to deny it and minimize problems. Perhaps he or she is grieving the loss of a loved one, or frustrated at not being able to connect with friends. If your loved one has a hard time getting out and is losing support, he or she is also at risk for depression.

Express your concerns as your own, without accusing:

A loved one might be more open to your honest expressions of concern. For example, instead of saying “It’s clear you can’t take care of yourself anymore. Something needs to be done,” try “I’ve really been worried about you. It hurts me to think that you might not be getting everything you need. What do you think we should do?”

Respect your loved one’s autonomy and involve him or her in decisions:

Unless your loved one is incapacitated, the final decision about care is up to him or her. You can help by offering suggestions and ideas. For example, what home care services might bridge the gap? If you’re worried that home care might not be enough, what other options are available? You can frame it as something to try temporarily instead of trying to impose a permanent solution.

Enlist other help:

Does your loved one know others who have used home care services, or have had to move? Talking to others who have had positive experiences can sometimes help remove fear of the unknown. You may want to consider having a meeting with your loved one’s doctor or hire a geriatric care manager. Sometimes hearing feedback from an unbiased third party can help a loved one realize that things need to change.

If your loved one is becoming incapable of making decisions

Are you worried that your loved one is putting him or herself in danger? Someone with worsening memory problems, for example, may forget to turn the gas off or wander outside and get lost. This may be a concern with diseases such as later stage Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke.

If you have the opportunity, its best to bring this up before your loved one has reached the level of incapacity, although it’s a hard conversation to have. If your loved one has designated someone with durable power of attorney in case of incapacity, then that person can make decisions if your loved one is no longer able to. If not, then you may need to petition for guardianship or conservatorship. You may want to consult an advocacy group and an elder law attorney to best understand your options.