Lots of adult children face the same dilemma: should I press my aging parents to accept home care assistance? Almost all seniors resist the idea that they may require help in order to remain safely in their homes. Often, it falls to their kids to push the issue. But when is it time to start insisting? Here are some signs that the time may be now:
1) Falls. Every year one out of three community-dwelling seniors over age 65 experience at least one fall. Fortunately, 80-90% of falls do not result in serious or disabling injury. The trouble is, falling in the older population is usually due to ongoing risk factors that will cause more falls in the future. In fact, people who fall once are two to three times as likely to fall again within a year. As falls become more common, the odds mount that a hip fracture—or worse—will be the result. Roughly 350,000 people suffer hip fractures every year, and nearly half will be unable to regain their previous level of independence.
2) Taking medications improperly. According to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, individuals aged 65 to 69 take nearly 14 prescriptions per year. Those aged 80 to 84 take an average of 18 prescriptions per year. Although overmedication of the elderly is a recognized problem, the fact is that many of these prescriptions are important to preserving the well-being of our loved ones. Failing to comply with prescribed medication regimens can lead to adverse drug reactions, preventable hospitalizations or worse. If an aging parent is showing signs that he or she is unable to take medications as prescribed, it may be time to get help.
3) Community resources falling short. Fairfax County offers numerous types of help for aging residents. For example, the county’s Adult Day Health Care centers provide care for older adults with various functional limitations, including dementia. The Meals on Wheels program offers two nutritious meals a day for those who cannot shop or prepare their own meals, or who have no one to prepare meals for them. The county offers numerous additional services, including assistance for low-income seniors. But for any number of reasons, such services may be insufficient or inapplicable.
4) The well spouse is overwhelmed. Many elderly Fairfax county residents depend upon a relatively healthy husband or wife to shoulder the burden of care. But when Dad is showing signs that Mom’s care is becoming too much, home care may be the right next step. Caring for someone with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or stroke, for example, can be a full-time job that takes a physical and emotional toll.
5) Nutrition is suffering. You work during the day, but you do all you can to leave a pre-cooked meal for your loved one to warm in the microwave for lunch. However, when you check in during the evening, you find it untouched. Your loved one explains that he or she wasn’t hungry, or perhaps just prepared a bowl of cold cereal. The benefits of healthy eating in older adults include increased mental acuteness, resistance to disease, higher energy levels, faster recuperation times and better management of chronic health conditions. To assure that your Fairfax-dwelling loved one gets nutritious meals, in-home care may help.
6) Forgetfulness is becoming more evident. Common as it may be, noticeable memory loss is not part of normal aging. Rather, it is usually a sign of a progressive disorder like Alzheimer’s disease, Pick’s disease, Lewy Body disease or some other form of dementia. Medical evaluation is necessary to make a diagnosis and rule out reversible factors. However, dementia always progresses over time and may lead to various signs of cognitive impairment and abnormal behaviors. Don’t ignore signs of early dementia—seek the advice of a physician and consider making arrangements for help in the home.
7) You’re getting burned out. More than 50 million Americans provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member in any given year. About 17% of family caregivers devote more than 40 hours per week to caring for a loved one. Fairfax County offers various kinds of assistance for caregivers, including respite care and support groups. Nevertheless, caregiving can take a toll in the form of increased stress, depression and even higher mortality rates. Sometimes you need to arrange in home care assistance not just for your parent’s sake, but for yours.