The aging process for some is gradual and for others seemingly sudden. Caregivers need to watch, look and listen for signs that things are changing, and needs are increasing. It is advisable to start discussing options, if you notice that someone you care about is experiencing issues that are causing you to be concerned, such as:
• increasing/new health concerns/issues (or a recent diagnosis of a chronic illness, psychiatric illness, or dementia)
• frequent visits to a hospital emergency room
• difficulties with shopping and/or preparing nutritious meals, including kitchen safety issues
• weight loss/not eating properly
• changes in habits and/or behaviours and/or personality
• change in communication patterns with friends and family
• unexplained signs of physical injury (bruising, bumps, broken bones, falls)
• difficulty performing activities they did easily in the past (either cognitively, e.g. financial management, opening, and processing mail or physically, e.g. household tasks, getting up from a chair, walking, taking medications, etc.)
• difficulty looking after personal care needs (grooming, hygiene, toileting, bathing, etc.)
• issues with self-medicating/concerns about substance abuse
• cognitive issues (significant forgetfulness, poor judgment, changes in mood, confusion, wandering), loneliness or fear of being alone
While some of these issues in isolation may not be significant, a combination of a few of them may indicate a need for some intervention or assistance in the home. As a first step, you may want to speak with their family doctor. Depending on your concerns, the doctor may recommend various tests and referrals to other professionals. This may include a geriatric assessment if he/she feels it is warranted.
For the independent senior who isn’t sure if they want to relocate or when the best time to move is, you might want to consider the following questions to help you to determine if/when you need to start thinking about options:
• Are there stairs in your home (either inside or to get inside)?
If yes, are you having difficulty with going up or down the stairs?
• Do you need help with any household tasks (laundry, cleaning, shopping, etc.)?
• Do you or your spouse need help with any personal care (bathing, dressing etc.)?
• Are you able to prepare nutritious meals for yourself?
• Do you have a yard/yardwork/outside maintenance?
• Who does your repairs inside/outside your house?
• Do you have people who can assist you with any of the above issues now or in the future or, if you do not, can you afford to pay people to assist with any personal care or household tasks?
• If you already have people assisting you:
Are you happy with the service they are providing?
Do they provide enough to meet your needs?
Can they provide more if you need it?
Is the cost affordable?
• Are you and/or your spouse on a lot of medications?
If yes, are you able to keep track of when you need to take them?
• How do you get around (drive, cab, transit, family assistance)?
Are there any concerns about driving/using public transit/family assistance with transportation?
• Are you walking distance to important amenities (doctor, dentist, pharmacy, grocery store, etc.)?
If not, do you want/need to move closer to any amenities?
• Do you/your spouse require any assistive devices to help you to function?
Does either of you have a worsening condition that may necessitate more advanced devices (or devices that will necessitate more physical assistance) in the near future?
• Do you have any safety concerns (consider any issues inside and outside the home)?
• Has your family indicated that they have concerns about your living situation/safety?
If yes, are there affordable and realistic solutions that will enable you to remain at home safely?
• How is your/your spouse’s hearing?
• How is your/your spouse’s sight?
• Are you/your spouse forgetful?
• Do you/your spouse have any significant medical issues which require assistance or may in the near future?
• Do you feel isolated/lonely or scared at certain times of day/night?
• Do you (and your spouse) get out every day/almost every day or are you always home?
• Do you (and your spouse) have hobbies/interests that keep you physically and mentally active?
• Are you able to manage your finances (e.g. banking, paying bills, managing investments etc.)?
• Do you/your spouse ask for help when you need it?
• Do you have a support network, friends or family nearby and available?
If not, would you like to move closer to family/friends?
Answering these questions honestly can serve as a ‘conversation starter’ as they will help you to focus on the type of support you might need currently or, in the near future. While a few potential or minor issues may not be problematic, several might be and may suggest a need to begin considering resources.
If, after thinking/talking about your current situation and (potential) concerns with your loved ones, it seems that in the near future, you might need either additional help in your own home or to relocate to a place where there are more supports to enable you to remain independent, it may be time to start looking at the options available to you based on your current financial, physical and social situation. Discuss any concerns you have with your family and your doctor, so they can assist you in locating supports in your area. As you will see as you work through the content of this book, it is better to begin doing your research and discussing what your desires are with your family before you need the help and most certainly, before a crisis forces the issue and limits available options.
Excerpted with permission from: The Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Living - 23rd Edition
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