When the time comes that an elderly relative – maybe your parents or grandparents – feel that they need some support due to age-related problems, it’s very unlikely that you’ll hear it from them! For people who have always been strong and healthy, have worked hard and played harder, as well as looked after their own families, it’s not easy to admit that you need help, and so the responsibility falls to their family to recognise the signs.

Older people want to be able to remain independent for as long as possible, and to feel that they are in control of their own lives. It’s important that options such as introducing care at home, moving into a residential home, or even the simple step of hiring a cleaner, are all discussed well in advance of the support actually being needed. That way your loved-one won’t feel that all the decisions are being taken out of their hands and made for them.

Whether you’ve openly discussed future care options or not, it’s important to know what the signs are when it comes to whether or not it’s time for help at home or an increased level of care….

Mobility Levels Change

Simply observing how well your elderly loved one can move around and perform everyday tasks will give you a good indication of whether or not they need any extra help. Have you noticed that they seem to have more difficulty walking recently? Is going shopping becoming more and more of a struggle? Maybe a mobility aid would help them to continue getting out and about and maintain their independence for a little longer; but it could be that some at home care would be beneficial. 

Further reading: Fall prevention guide

Is driving becoming more of a challenge for your loved one? Is it hard work to run the vacuum round? Having someone run simple errands or even come in and do some light housework could be a god send – but still allows your relative to have independence and control over their lives.

Any New Injuries?

It’s no surprise that as we age we are more susceptible to injuries, and even the smallest knock or bump could cause us more problems as we become older and more frail. Have you noticed bruises, marks or burns on an older loved one?

If it seems to be a common occurrence rather than a one off it could indicate that they are struggling with balance, failing eyesight, or even memory loss. Burns could mean that cooking safely is becoming a problem, which of course adds a whole other layer of precautions that need to be taken. Perhaps a meal delivery service a few times a week would be helpful, or some support at home while they continue to cook for themselves.

Sometimes an increase in falls and injuries can be a sign of dementia, and so it’s always a good idea to seek the advice of a healthcare professional if you know or suspect that an elderly person is becoming injured on a regular basis.

Problems With Food

We’ve already mentioned the difficulties that the elderly might face when it comes to preparing their own meals, but maybe they are missing meals altogether! This could be down to forgetting to eat or maybe even financial problems.

It could be that their partner used to do all the cooking, but now they’ve passed….or maybe your elderly relative has always cooked for everyone else and now that they’re on their own they simply can’t be bothered.

Home care can provide support in the kitchen if your loved one needs assistance, or even someone to prepare and cook the meals for them. If you think that financial problems might be the issue you could encourage your relative to speak to an organisation such as Age Concern, or perhaps you could contact them on their behalf.

Signs such as extreme weight loss should be checked out by a doctor in order to rule out any illnesses or age-related dietary issues.

Changes In Personal Hygiene

As we get older issues such as forgetfulness, injury, or conditions like arthritis can make washing and ironing clothes, doing our hair, and even washing ourselves a struggle. Have you noticed that an elderly relative isn’t taking care of their personal appearance in the same way they used to? Are clothes dirty and creased? Are nails and beards going untrimmed?

If this is that case it’s probably embarrassing to admit that keeping themselves clean and tidy is becoming a challenge, so approach the subject gently. Again, homecare can be a big help here – not only with helping with the laundry, but also with helping with personal hygiene.

It might take some persuading for an elderly relative to admit they need help with bathing etc, but those who work in home care always assist their clients with the utmost respect and compassion.

Behaving Unusually

Changes in behaviour such as confusion or paranoia can be a sign of declining mental health. If someone you love is exhibiting these tendencies, or is having difficulty in communicating, speak to a GP as soon as possible for a full health assessment. It could be that extra care and support is required even if your relative is physically very well and independent.

Not Managing Their Medication

It can be difficult to remember to take medications at the best of times, but for an elderly person it can be even more so! This can be particularly worrying if they are taking medications for a chronic illness or condition such as diabetes or epilepsy.

Setting alarms or you telephoning to remind them could work for some; for others it might be that extra support is needed in the form of home care coming to ensure that medication is taken correctly and on time.

Neglecting Their Finances

If you’re noticing that unpaid bills are starting to mount or that an elderly relative is suddenly spending money in ways they wouldn’t normally, it could be a sign that some extra support is needed. Maybe they’re forgetting when certain payments have to be made…or they don’t recall making certain purchases and don’t remember spending money. Any signs that indicate memory loss and the onset of dementia should be reported to a GP.

A doctor can explore care options with you and your loved one and help you to identify what type of care is needed – and that doesn’t necessarily mean being carted off to a home! Support at home could be something as simple as someone popping for a cuppa and a chat, helping to tidy up, or helping with a weekly shop, so that your relative can maintain and enjoy their independence for a long time to come.

If you want more information on at home care, or if you want to know more about the signs that might mean a loved one needs more care and support, please contact us at Care In Kent and a member of our team will be happy to help you.