The holiday season is a time when many families travel near and far to be together, catch up, and celebrate. As a primary caregiver, taking stock after the holiday season to note comments and observations from friends and family members who don’t regularly see aging relatives is a good practice.
“When providing day-to-day care to an aging loved one, you may become inured to gradual, yet important, changes in their health and wellbeing,” remarks Maria Hood, director of admissions, United Hebrew of New Rochelle. “With fresh eyes, distant family members may notice changes in mom or dad’s physical health or mental acuity that you don’t.”
How to know if a declining family member needs more care than you can give
Hood points out, there are five key signs that may indicate it’s time to seek professional help regarding your loved one’s living situation.
- Worsening medical conditions
- Difficulty managing finances
- Messy living space
- Poor hygiene and frailty
Additionally, some individuals with dementia may start acting in dramatically different ways, warranting next-level professional care.
“Someone very independent may suddenly be apprehensive about driving, decline social invitations and become withdrawn,” says Hood. “Someone meticulous about their appearance may suddenly forget daily hygiene or how to do basic tasks like bathing or hairstyling and are too embarrassed to ask for help.”
Coping with caregiver demands
Managing the day-to-day responsibilities associated with caring for a sick or aging loved one along with personal commitments, career and immediate family needs is difficult and exhausting. As you take stock of changes in your loved one, don’t forget about shifts in your own quality of life. Your physical and mental wellbeing can also be a sign that it’s time to seek professional help for mom or dad.
How are you coping? Are you struggling to meet the medical and emotional demands of the loved one you are caring for? Are things that were once important to you being put on extended hold? Are you always tired?
“Sleep deprivation is the primary reason why family caregivers make the difficult decision to transition a loved one to a nursing facility,” says Hood. “If you are awoken numerous times in the night to calm or care for a sick or confused family member, that takes a toll on your health and ability to function effectively throughout the day.”
Getting the help you need
After discussing your loved one’s progressive health issues with family members and making them aware of changes that are affecting your ability to manage on your own, it’s time to assess the level of professional care that is needed.
“If your loved one needs more help than you can provide, there are different levels of care available, including home health assistance, assisted living facilities and nursing homes,” adds Hood. “At United Hebrew, we recommend families get in contact with us before a medical emergency or more serious symptoms manifest. Our goal is to work with families to discern the differences among appropriate care options long before you need to make a choice, so that you are not forced to move quickly in the event of a health crisis.”
There are also a number of government agencies and non-profit groups, such as the Administration on Aging and AARP that can provide families with information on public programs offering assistance across a spectrum of care needs.
“You don’t have to do this alone,” adds Hood. “Getting professional help to analyze your loved one’s needs, from home care and assisted living to transitioning to a fulltime nursing facility, we can assist you in making the right decision so the whole family is comfortable and confident that your loved one’s needs are being met with kindness and dignity.”