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Top Five Signs It’s Time to Think About In-Home Care for Your Aging Parent

Mar 10, 2021

A friend of mine told me that the moment she realized her father needed in-home care was the moment he set his housecoat on fire.

She laughed as she described it – the whole thing sounds like a sitcom episode with Fred Willard hilariously flaying about trying to douse the flames. Nobody was laughing at the time though – it was a big wake-up call for everyone.

The thing is, her father wasn’t doing anything unusual. He was cooking his breakfast as he did every morning. Somehow, part of the terrycloth touched the burner and the cotton just flared up.

Luckily, he put the flames out quickly and was okay. But I still wince to think how much worse it could have been. It left my friend a bit scared and confused as well. Suddenly she was faced with something we all dread: that moment when you realize the roles have reversed, and you are the one looking after your parents.

Reaching this level of understanding is difficult and often heart-wrenching. Too often, it takes a wake-up call – like a fire, in my friend’s case. You’ll be relieved to learn that there is a way to intervene long before something desperate happens so you can get your parents or loved ones the in-home care they need.

Five Early Warning Signs Can Help You Avoid the Big Wake-up Call

It’s important to know that there are usually signs before an event like this happens. The thing is we, children of aging parents, are often oblivious to the signs. It’s not an automatic thing to realize we need to take care of them.

That’s why we need to consciously keep an eye open for these five signs that it’s time to think about in-home care for parents and loved ones:

  1. Your Parent Can No Longer Successfully and Consistently Manage Their Personal Care
  2. Your Parent Can No Longer Complete Household Chores
  3. Your Parent Has Frequent Accidents
  4. Your Parent Is Recovering from an Illness or Injury
  5. Your Parent Suffers from Lack of Companionship

This is not an exclusive list by any means. But these are the most common early signs. We’ll go into these signs a bit more in-depth so you can recognize them, explore some of our biases that may hide the signs from us, and give some thought about how we can help.

1. Your Parent Can No Longer Successfully and Consistently Manage Their Personal Care

Slipping personal hygiene can be a sign that your parent or loved one may need in-home care.We may not see that our parent’s personal care is slipping because, frankly, we don’t want to talk to our parents about hygiene. But it can be a sign that other things are not right with them as well.

Hygiene is just one example. Other daily personal care tasks they might be struggling with include:

  • Inability to make proper meals for themselves
  • Forgetting to take medications on time
  • Being late for appointments
  • Inability to make appointments including social activities

An in-home care provider like a personal support worker can help your parent with hygiene and other personal care tasks.

2. Your Parent Can No Longer Complete Household Chores

In-home care services like housecleaning can support seniors as they live independently.Personal hygiene isn’t the only thing that can decline. Household chores might get left behind as well. These include:

  • Inability to keep their home clean
  • Trouble properly washing and drying their clothes
  • Inability to get groceries
  • Showing an unwillingness to drive or driving less
  • Inability to maintain the yard, gardens, and walkways in winter

This is another obvious situation in which a little in-home care can help your parent better manage their home.

3. Your Parent Has Frequent Accidents

In my father’s case, the “accident” was stark and sudden. Nothing gets your attention like a fire! But usually there are smaller accidents ahead of time – accidents we may not even see unless we look for them.

For example, maybe one day your mother is complaining about a sore wrist. It sounds harmless enough – we all get aches as we get older. Our natural tendency as their children is to explain issues like this away. But perhaps she injured it in a fall. Even if it’s a small injury (or a small fall), it could be a warning of a bigger one to follow.

Take note of:

  • Scratches, bumps, burns, and bruises, no matter how minor
  • Limps or other signs of injury
  • Mentions of slipping, falling, bumping into things
  • Changes in behaviour that could be due to injury

It’s always a good idea to talk to your parent about it to try to determine what happened. They might be embarrassed or they might even try to explain it away themselves, making it more difficult to get information.

Of course, seek medical attention for your parent if the injury seems serious. And consider in-home care. These services can help prevent accidents by helping with household chores, preparing meals, and other activities for your parents.

4. Your Parent is Recovering from an Illness or Injury

You would think this is an obvious one. But again, we children have a problem with the role reversal. Our dad might tell us, “I’m fine – the doctor says I should get up and move anyway.” Sometimes, he might get downright angry at the thought of needing help.

I feel for them. Losing your independence can’t be an easy thing. And to lose it all at once due to injury or illness – or some other sign of aging – must make it harder. But our job is to help keep them safe so they don’t re-injure themselves.

Recovering from illness or injury might result in:

  • Reduced or no mobility
  • Reduced abilities in other areas just as making meals
  • Inability to climb stairs
  • Inability to maintain the house, the lawn, or their hygiene

Despite what your loved one might say, chances are they do need help, either from you or from an in-home care service while they’re recovering.

5. Your Parent Suffers from Lack of Companionship

Seniors might stop socializing for a variety of reasons that in-home care can help with.This is one of the hardest – if not the hardest – sign to see. Again, it plays into our unrealistic views of our parents. We see them always as the strong, in-control ones. We assume that if they lack companionship, it’s because they don’t want or need it.

But this isn’t always the case. And in many families, parents aren’t going to come out and just tell their children they’re lonely. So it’s up to us to notice the signs, including:

  • Frequent calling to loved ones
  • Lack of friends visiting
  • Disinterest in former activities, especially if they were social activities
  • Friends dying or in hospital
  • Lack of motivation to attend events that were at one time important
  • Isolation because of weather and they can’t get out of their house

Although the primary reason for in-home care isn’t necessarily companionship, sometimes this extra human contact can make the world of difference. It can also help indirectly by taking on household tasks so they have more energy for socializing and a cleaner house to entertain.

A Final Thought...

In-home help at mealtimes can help you AND your loved one live more independently.One last thing – in-home care isn’t just for parents living on their own. Perhaps they live with you. But in many busy families where everyone is working, often parents spend hours on their own – including over mealtimes. Having someone around during that period or even popping in during those mealtimes when you’re not around can make life easier – and safer – for everyone.

Do you have more questions about in-home care for your aging parent or loved one? We can help! Email Liz Comuzzi right now at [email protected]. We offer free 15-minute consultations to help you determine what questions you should be asking right now, and where to find the answers. We may also be able to help you connect with in-home care services in your area.

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