Addressing Elderly Care Concerns
When families realize that a loved one may need assistance with daily activities, they begin to research some of the most common elderly care issues. They may be wondering if this is just them and their family, if a change in abilities or new challenges are a normal part of aging or a sign of illness.
What Are Common Elderly Care Issues?
Aging is different for everyone, depending on genetics and lifestyle and even environment. However, there are commonalities that can typically occur as bodies and minds age and families and friends can be on the lookout for changes:
- Increased risk for falls. What’s the deal with falling as people get older? Changes in eyesight, hearing, physical activity, balance, and symptoms from illness or side effects from medications can all contribute to being less steady on one’s feet day or night.
- Cognitive decline. While wisdom may come with age, science tells us that minds don’t get sharper the longer we live. Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging though and if there is a concern that some is exhibiting signs of this form of dementia, they should see their healthcare provider.
- Sensory changes. As vision deteriorates either because of age or an illness, this can impact someone’s ability to safely navigate their surroundings—either going down the stairs at home, driving a car, or seeing if food is still fresh. Cataracts, glaucoma and other age-related eye conditions can be life-changing. Hearing can also get worse over time, perhaps from exposure to extremely loud sounds many years before, or as a result of a chronic condition. When people experience hearing loss, they may withdraw socially and subsequently develop feelings of loneliness and even depression. Smell can lessen with age too, and this can impact how people not only experience eating and drinking, but their ability to detect if food is healthy or if there is a bad smell—such as gas—in the home.
- Mobility. People may no longer drive by choice or because a concerned family member has been forced to take away this privilege due to a change in vision or cognitive decline. Not being able to drive can take away a person’s opportunities to socialize, maintain pleasurable routines, see medical providers, refill prescriptions, or buy healthy food on a regular basis.
Who Should Be Responsible for Elderly Care?
Once the signs that someone may need elder care appear, the question is, who can help? Who should help an elder? Who should be responsible for elderly care?
Adult sons and daughters often feel an obligation to care for their elderly parents, and this is natural. What may start out as checking in more frequently, running a few errands, maybe even going along to some doctor appointments, can accumulate into a full-time caregiver role with no training or experience.
Contacting a home care agency doesn’t have to mean that family is giving up on caring for an elder loved one; it can be the first step in building a care team so that everyone involved is doing what they do best. A professionally trained caregiver may be skilled in caring for someone with specific condition or symptoms that a family knows nothing about. Or a companion caregiver may simply be available at times when a loved one is not—either due to scheduling or geography.
A family caregiver and a professional in-home caregiver can work together, each using their strengths and experience, and execute on a care plan to support an elder.
How Home Care Helps with Elder Care
In looking at the most common elderly care concerns, it can be bewildering to consider how to address them. In-home care services can help people continue to have some independence in their lives, even as abilities change.
It’s important to know that elder care is not one thing or type of care, but covers a large variety of care that can be delivered in the home for those aging in place.
If a spouse, elder parent, or other loved one shares that they have been tripping and even falling more, schedule an appointment with their healthcare provider soon. The next move might be consulting with a home care agency to do a falls risk assessment in the home. At this time things like clutter, lighting, stairs, and more can be addressed to make the environment safer. For those using a walker or wheelchair, whether temporarily or on an on-going basis, a caregiver can be there to help steady them and even join them for walks.
Forgetfulness can be a part of aging, and it can lead to things like forgetting to take medications. A caregiver can provide critical medication reminders and tips on following the correct directions when taking medicines. When it seems like more than just forgetting, see if there are other signs of Alzheimer’s disease and set up time to see their healthcare provider.
Societal stigmas around aging and loss of hearing, vision, and even being diagnosed with illnesses such as dementia can lead people to withdraw in confusion or hurt feelings. There can also be the loss of a spouse or friends as people age. These scenarios can lead to a loss of important socialization and increased loneliness. Studies have shown that prolonged feelings of loneliness can then become depression and that in turn can cause other diseases, even dementia. A caregiver visiting routinely can be a lifeline of companionship as this connection can bring meaning to someone’s days and allow them to maintain the opportunity to share stories, have new experiences, and reduce feelings of boredom and helplessness.
Not every community has easily-accessible and affordable transportation for elders who choose to or can no longer drive themselves where they need to go. When other options are not reliable, an in-home caregiver who helps with meal preparation, companionship, bathing, and other tasks around the house, can also help with errands away from home. A caregiver can be the ride to and from a doctor’s appointment, to visit with old friends, to get to and around the local grocery store, and more.
Elderly care issues change over time and having a dependable in-home caregiver might mean less stress on family members as conditions evolve.
Take a minute to watch our video about home care and elderly care issues.