What is Elder Care and How do I Know My Parents Need It?
April 12 2019
What Elder Care is and the Warning Signs It’s Needed
Elder care, or senior care, is specialized care designed to meet the needs of senior citizens at various stages. It encompasses adult day care, assisted living, home health care, nursing care as well as hospice care.
But with all these choices in types of elder care, how do you know when your parents may need it? Aging in and of itself is not a reason to consider elder care. Generally, elder care is needed due to the physical limitations or illnesses that accompany old age.
When is Elder Care Necessary?
Senior care is not always needed. Some senior citizens are able to live independently, never requiring help with daily living activities. However, one a loved one begins to experience difficulty with these daily activities, such as being able to cook and clean safely, the ability to dress and bathe one self, or even taking medications, it is time to consider looking at elder care.
Sometimes just a general decline in overall health prompts the need for elder care. Senility comes on at a gradual pace and a person who once was able to remember to take their medications, is now having difficulty remembering to do so. Failing eyesight may mean that your loved one is unable to move about their own home safely and chronic pain could mean difficulty getting in and out of bed or a bathtub without assistance and could lead to devastating injury from falling.
In some cases, the quick onset of an injury or illness may prompt the need for senior care. Healing broken bones or recovering from a stroke are just some examples of this need for elder care after a quick onset of injury or illness.
What remains constant is your loved one’s need for help with daily living activities, whether that is due to physical, cognitive or emotional hindrances. Family members or a doctor are usually the first to recognize this need. However the type of elder care your loved one may need is based upon the severity of their condition, or how much help they need.
It is up to you and your loved one’s medical team to closely watch your loved one for any changes that may affect their ability to be safe and live independently. There are a number of warning signs you can watch for to let you know when to seek help.
Warning Signs To Look For
Emotional problems can manifest in several ways, including due to a decline in health, the loss of a spouse, the inability to enjoy activities once loved or even just feelings of unimportance. Many people, seniors included, can deny the existence or severity of emotional problems. This makes it all the more important to make thoughtful observations of your loved one’s emotional health. Warning signs of emotion issues include:
- Withdrawal from social interactions
- Feelings of loneliness
- Loss of interest in activities
- Changes in personality, such as irritability, anger or moodiness
Cognitive issues, at lease in mild forms, can be expected as we age. However, some cognitive problems can hinder your loved one’s ability to live safely and independently. The warnings signs include:
- Memory loss
- Inability to pay attention
- Forgetting to take medications, or taking medications incorrectly
- Language issues
- Dementia that is progressive and causes serious safety concerns
As we age, our bodies become more frail and less resilient. Chronic health issues often present themselves in old age and can make it difficult to safely perform daily living activities. These warning signs may be easy to spot but can also be more subtle. While senior citizens with vision or hearing loss may not appear to be physically impaired, it can greatly impact their overall safety and health. It is important that their doctor perform complete physical examinations—just because your parent hasn’t reported a physical impairment, doesn’t mean that it does not need treatment. Warning signs of physical problems include:
- Issues walking, both in gait and stability
- A loss or decline in hearing, seeing and smelling
- Chronic health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and heart disease
- Temporary or permanent physical limitations that inhibit your loved one’s ability to perform daily living tasks
When to Start Discussions About Elder Care
Discussions of elder care should start as soon as changes are noticed that affect your parent’s ability to live safely and independently. Otherwise, your loved one’s well-being and safety could be in jeopardy.
When you start your family discussion on elder care, be sure to ask yourself these questions:
- What types of care are available near my parents or near me?
- Can modifications be made to the home or routine to remedy the situation or is professional assistance needed?
- What type of care is needed to ensure immediate or long-term safety?
- Can care be provided in the home or is moving my parent to a facility a better option?
- What are our financial constraints in providing elder care?
Be sure to include all needed members of the family in the discussion on elder care. If you parents are cognitively able to join the discussion, it is important to include them. It can be hard to admit when you are no longer able to live independently so make sure that you approach your loved one with respect, empathy and love.