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Homewatch CareGivers Blog

Is Now the Time for Professional Care?

by Homewatch CareGivers | Jan 02, 2015
There comes a time in helping an elder loved one when it becomes clear that there is a need for professional help. Yet this may not always be possible or sustainable for loved ones only.

Professional Care

Just as studies show that people prefer to age in their own homes, these same people typically prefer to rely on family when they require assistance with activities of daily living. But for many reasons, adult children cannot always be there for their elder relatives or they may not have the skills to provide the necessary help.  

Use Your Senses

There are physical signs that an elder parent may be in need of care in the home and you can simply look, smell, and listen when you visit to determine if things are amiss:

  1. Smell. Trash not getting taken out of the house or spoiled food can indicate that someone is not eating well, is unable to prepare food like they used to, or another problem like mobility that prevents them from lifting and walking the trash outside.

  2. See. If you see piles of dirty dishes, laundry, dusty surfaces, untended plants or pets, then it is clear that your loved one is having difficulty addressing their daily needs around the house. This is not a judgment about cleanliness but a wakeup call to everything from potential fall risks or fire hazards to depression or glaucoma or even dementia.

  3. Listen. When a usually friendly and out-going person becomes agitated and socially withdrawn, it can signal a problem with their health—possible early dementia or a treatable infection causing pain or sadness and loneliness. Rather than make assumptions, engage them in a conversation and listen closely for clues about the cause of their change in demeanor.

Talk, Talk

Author and psychotherapist Christina Steinorth created tips on how to communicate with a loved one who needs more help as they age. 

In her book, “Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships,” Ms. Steinorth has an entire chapter about adult children/aging parent relationships. I offer these tips for tactfully speaking with an elder parent about your concerns:

  1. “Try to figure out if your parent is aware of the problem that you would like to address,” she said. “If he/she is aware of a problem, then your parent may be more open to hearing what you have to say about remedying the situation. If your parent isn’t aware there is a problem, gently call attention to the issue and see what your parent’s response is. Say something like, ‘Mom, what do you think about getting a professional housekeeper?’ Her response will let you know if she is aware that this is an issue or not, and therefore how to formulate your approach.”

  2. “Be gentle,” Steinorth advised. “Saying something to the effect of, ‘Dad, I’d like to come over once or twice a month to help you with your lawn,’ will be much more effective than saying, ‘When was the last time you mowed the lawn? It looks completely overgrown!’”

  3. “If you have siblings, ask for their help and input,” Steinorth suggested. “So many family caregivers feel that they are they only capable of taking care of their parents that they don’t ask anyone for help. What many caregivers are surprised to find is that most people are more than willing to help—they just need to be asked.”

Keep in mind that needs change over time and someone may need less help—especially if they had a treatable medical condition that has been addressed—or more help as time goes on. Being aware of the warning signs and keeping the lines of communication open between you means that you will be prepared when you need to be.