When Do the Elderly Need In-Home Care?

A change in functioning doesn't have to mean moving to assisted living or a nursing home. However, it may indicate a need for extra help to support a desire to age in place.

Providing supportive care to a relative may be falling to you and your family. You may be considering hiring outside help to address increasing care needs. A professional caregiver can benefit your loved one as well as you and your family of caregivers.

How do you know when your parents or grandparents need extra help? Changes in personal appearance and household cleanliness often indicate a shift in physical or mental status.

In fact, there are subtle behavioral changes that can imply that an individual is no longer capable of completing once familiar tasks without support. You may have noticed that your dad's unopened mail is piling up or that your grandma who was always meticulous about her appearance is no longer concerned about wrinkled clothing or her coiffed hairdo.

These two real-life examples are among the many definitive signs that an individual's functional abilities are in decline. You may have arrived at your loved one's home and seen that things have gone awry.

When upkeep has stopped to the point of extreme clutter and unsanitary conditions, it's a clear warning that outside help is required to maintain the health and safety of the occupants.

Other signs? Inadequate food in the house or evidence of weight loss, forgetting to take medications and unexplained bruising that points to changes in mobility. How about a deviation from established personal hygiene routines? That's one of the most common red flags family members observe.

A strong smell of urine or body odor, coupled with flat-out refusing to get out of dirty clothes indicate it's time to step in. A noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care are sure signs that a senior is struggling.

If you are currently helping a loved one with grocery shopping, housekeeping, transportation to appointments or managing their medications, be honest about how this added responsibility is affecting you, your immediate family and your schedule.

Caregiving is emotionally demanding and physically exhausting. You need to recognize the signs of burnout and acknowledge when it's time to share the workload. Be honest with yourself — if you're seeing that this is becoming more than you can handle or if your level of involvement is causing anxiety or depression, hiring outside help may be the best solution.

How should you talk with your loved one and family about hiring in-home care?

  • Discuss what you've observed and ask what your dad or grandma thinks is going on.
  • Ask what they think would be viable solutions.
  • Of course, they may not recognize the problem or shrug it off — that's when you need to use concrete examples to support your concerns.
  • Don't focus on how your loved one needs extra help. Instead emphasize that in-home care would be beneficial for you as well. Focus on the shared advantage of having an extra pair of hands on a regular basis. Patronizing speech is a big no-no — it will only put older adults on the defensive and convey disrespect.
  • Speak with your loved one's doctor about what you've observed.
  • You might be able to talk with a hospital social worker, a geriatric care manager, a respected friend or a community representative of an agency that deals with aging.

Don't wait until an injury or incident occurs before you consider in-home care services. This also can limit your choices. Take a proactive approach for your loved one's in-home care needs.

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