Knowing When to Get Help

Richard Blumenthal, President, Advantage Home Care LLC

As we age and physical changes occur, we or someone we love may not be able to effectively deal with these changes. Some activities of daily living may become challenging.  Sooner or later we start wondering, “When should I look for help?”

The good news is, we don’t have to guess. There are common indicators that show us that help is needed. We don’t need to wait for a crisis situation to occur, in fact, the goal is to avoid the crisis, for everyone’s benefit. Signs that indicate help is needed:

1. Physical Condition: A diagnoses of a medical condition that affects daily living- such as  dressing, grooming, shaving, toileting, eating.

2. Personal Care: Baths/showers taken irregularly; body odor; teeth and hair not washed or brushed regularly. If incontinence products are worn, are they changed regularly and correctly?

3. Driving: Driving is difficult, uncertain or scary; reflexes and decision are slowed; new dings, dents or scratches on vehicles.

4. Nutrition: A change in weight; eating not happening regularly or nutritiously; the refrigerator doesn’t have a variety of foods; the food have outdated expiration dates; there is spoiled food in the refrigerator or on the counters.

5. Household Tasks: Household chores such as dusting, laundry, vacuuming, bed linens changed irregularly; household chores have become frustrating, physically demanding, or time consuming.

6. Socialization: Frequent moods of loneliness, despair, depression, frustration, irritability, or anxiety; fear or insecurity about going out of the house.

7. Mental Health: Memory lapses; difficulty finding the right words; inconsistency between words and action; anxiety or moodiness.

8. Medication: Medications not taken regularly or on time; medications not refilled on schedule; lack of understanding about purpose of medications.

9. Finances, Mail, Paperwork: Difficulty managing a checkbook, finances, bills and personal affairs; past due notices arriving; mail piling up; no cash on hand; important documents or similar items like purses, wallets and keys being misplaced frequently, for long periods of time or appearing in unusual places.

10. Safety, Security and Sanitation: Appliances such as the stove or coffee pot left on; falling asleep with cigarettes burning; house to hot or cold or always unlocked; a fall or multiple falls have occurred; clutter on the floor; trash piling up in or around the house; evidence of pet debris.

If you have a concern with even one set of indicators, it’s time to learn more about its cause and available options. Speaking openly, calmly, and honestly with your family and/or physician about the issue can help figure out the type of assistance needed.

Family members should keep their efforts as informal as possible, making observations through normal, casual interaction and making mental notes about anything of concern. The ultimate goal is to respect the senior’s wishes while assisting them with their needs.