Does Your Loved One Need Help? A Guide to Recognizing Red Flags for Our Aging Family Members

It can be difficult to know when your aging loved one could use assistance in their home. The desire to maintain independence can make them more secretive. As things become increasingly challenging, they may hide or minimize incidents. The fear of losing independence can outweigh their ability to see the risks to their health and safety. The bottom line is many older adults find it difficult to accept they need help. When you visit your loved one, you need to pay close attention to the everyday details – things that may seem perfectly normal from a distance can reveal areas for concern when examined “close up.”

Below is a list of red flags which can help you identify a loved one who is in need of assistance.

Difficulty Performing Activities of Daily Living:

  • Hygiene – Are their clothes clean? Is there an unpleasant odor? Do they wear the same clothing day after day? These signs could indicate that they struggle to keep up with their bathing and laundry. The reasons can vary. Maybe they find it challenging to get their laundry to the laundry room. Perhaps they don’t feel safe bathing.
  • Toileting and Continence – If you detect an odor near your loved one or in the home, maybe they are struggling with incontinence. Your loved one’s sense of smell might be preventing them from noticing.
  • Mobility – Does your loved one show difficulty getting up and down from their chair? How are they navigating throughout their home? Are they able to go up and down their stairs safely? It is essential to also look for cuts or bruising. This could indicate that they have been experiencing falls.
  • Meals/Appetite – Have you noticed that your loved one is losing weight? There could be many reasons for weight loss. Perhaps it isn’t easy to get to the grocery store. Or they are overwhelmed when shopping. Check their refrigerator and pantry to ensure adequate food in the home. Don’t forget to check the expiration dates. Often it is as simple as they are lonely. Mealtime is often a social time, and if they live alone, it may seem like too much effort to prepare a meal. If their memory is failing, they may forget to eat.
  • Medications – Is your loved one taking their medications correctly? Are their prescriptions being filled regularly? It is essential to ensure that their medications are being appropriately handled. Improper use of medications can result in serious health issues, including impaired judgment, falls, or worse.
  • Changes in behavior and mental status – Are they showing a decreased interest in socializing and hobbies they once enjoyed? Are they experiencing varied mood swings? Are they more agitated than usual? Are they showing signs of repetitiveness? There are many reasons for changes in behavior. They could be lonely or depressed. Or this could be a sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

It is essential to be aware of these signs and provide assistance before they experience a health crisis or fall. Just a few hours of help per week can prevent an incident that could end up creating the need for 24-hour service! If you feel that your loved one may be experiencing challenges, you might benefit from an In-home Safety and health consult. Remember, a little bit of care today could prevent the need for much care down the road.