When you visit aging parents or loved ones, do you sometimes notice things that seem “off?” Maybe Dad can’t find his medications anymore, or Mom won’t talk about that mysterious dent on the car. Maybe one time you noticed that one of them left a kettle boiling on the stove.
These are universal “something’s not right” signs that might give you pause – signs they could benefit from extra assistance to continue living safely and independently at home. Aging in the comfort of their own home is a priority for many older adults. According to our research, 94% plan to do so.
Some older adults need help to make this desire a reality. Due to distance during the pandemic, you may not have noticed subtle changes to your loved one’s behavior, such as being more forgetful than normal or becoming easily agitated. While we all feel this way from time to time, consistent or drastic changes can be indications of a more serious issue. And these changes may be more noticeable after time away.
“Many older adults have spent an increased amount of time at home over the past two years, amplifying feelings of loneliness and lack of connection with friends and family,” said Lakelyn Hogan, Ph.D., gerontologist and caregiver advocate for Home Instead. “When getting together with your older loved ones, take note of changes in behavior and attitude that may demonstrate a helping hand around the home is needed.”
It can be difficult to discuss but acknowledging these signs can keep older loved ones safe and help them maintain their independence, while also giving family members peace of mind.
6 Signs an Older Adult Could Benefit from More Help at Home
A Cluttered House
Has the inside of their home become uncharacteristically disorganized or unkept? Are dirty dishes and laundry beginning to pile up? Don’t write this behavior off as laziness, especially if your loved one is a typically organized person. An unkept home may indicate their physical health is holding them back from keeping up with the usual housework.
Missed Medication and Unpaid Bills
Are there full bottles of prescription medicine around the house? Are they paying bills late or not paying them at all? Not only could these behaviors lead to very serious medical complications or household emergencies, but they could also be early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Change in Behavior or Personal Appearance
Have you noticed a decline in personal hygiene? Have they lost a significant amount of weight? Are they acting out of the ordinary? It’s important to take note of any changes that might mean they are neglecting to take care of themselves or suffering from loneliness or depression.
Mysterious Car Dents
Are you finding unexplained dents or scratches on their car? Are they getting into more accidents on the road? Evidence of this damage could mean their ability to drive is waning and is a serious threat to their safety as well as other drivers. Telling your loved one it’s time to give up the keys is hard but may be a necessary conversation.
Decreased Mobility or Signs of a Fall
Do they have difficulty getting up from being seated or standing for long periods of time? Do they have bruises or wounds that could point to a recent fall? One in four adults ages 65 and over fall each year. Assessing common home safety pitfalls and having more help at home can prevent falls.
Misplaced Vital Items
Leaving important items like a walker or housekeys behind in a restaurant or retail store can indicate cognitive decline and the need for more support like what a professional caregiver can provide.
Any of these signs of decline should trigger a discussion about the types of support your aging loved one needs. These conversations can be tough, but they’re intended to keep your older loved one safe and well. Use these communication tips when beginning these conversations to ensure the conversation doesn’t feel confrontational and you leave with a better idea of a care plan that will support your aging loved one in a way everyone agrees on.