Your aging parent missed an appointment or a special occasion. Maybe he or she forgets words occasionally or is starting to need more rides to the doctor.
These may be small signs that show their age — and often we chalk these up to isolated incidents or “senior moments” that aren’t serious enough to make us consider whether our loved one may need some help.
Unfortunately, senior life care is often something that we put off thinking about until our loved one’s condition has deteriorated past the point where he or she is living as comfortably, happily and safely as possible.
But the ramifications of waiting can be serious and costly. There’s too much risk to not ensure your loved one’s safety. Even if you’re around to get your mom or dad emergency medical assistance, the real challenge begins after discharge.
Because sadly, one in five Americans on Medicare winds up back in the hospital within 30 days of discharge, reports the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
It’s just the reality – without a trained professional’s expertise, most of us simply do not know the common pitfalls for aging loved ones who want to remain in their home.
It’s inevitable your loved one will need help as they age — and there are major benefits to thinking about it earlier, rather than waiting until the need is dire.
Here are five reasons why bringing in a professional caregiver early can help:
A Professional Caregiver Consistently Spends Time with Your Loved One, Building a Relationship Now and Assessing Evolving Needs
As people get older, deterioration in motor skills is likely and it can have a big impact on a senior’s general health.
The sooner a caregiver begins care, the more equipped the person is to spot changes in his or her behavior — changes that may signal the need for more care or even medical intervention.
For example, consider dementia and its types. There are small signs of dementia that may be hard to spot, but catching these signs early can make a difference to possible treatments, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
It Can Help Your Loved One Maintain Independence in Their Own Home, Without Becoming Dependent on You or Others
As your loved one’s motor skills decline, important parts of the routine can become more difficult, like dressing or preparing meals.
The American Geriatric Society points out that this can also make taking prescribed medication difficult, as pills may be small and hard to handle.
Missed doses of medication could lead to health issues worsening. Mobility issues can lead to falls around the home. Having a professional care provider check on your mom or dad’s home for potential problem areas, such as high steps, could give you time to solve the issue before mobility worsens.
While medical and safety issues are obviously important, it is equally important that seniors are comfortable and happy.
Your Loved One Could Be Lonely, Especially if Fewer of His or Her Friends are Around
Perhaps your loved one is OK with medication and mobility right now, but many of his or her friends are no longer around or are in worse health and can no longer meet up for visits or outings. And even if your loved one has family visits two or three days a week, the person still spends most the time alone.
An estimated 20 percent of adults older than age 65 have experienced depression, according to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation. Depression is not a normal part of aging.
Social isolation and loneliness of the elderly is a problem that can impair mental performance, affect the immune system and increase health risks.
A professional caregiver can provide the companionship your loved one unknowingly longs to have, whether it’s helping your loved one cook again, going to a yoga class together or enjoying a cup of coffee together on the back porch.
Prevent Falls Before They Happen
Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among adults over the age of 67, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Furthermore, one-fourth of Americans over 65 fall every year, and older adults are treated in the ER for a fall every 11 seconds (800,000 hospitalizations each year).
If no one in your family is properly trained to fall-proof your loved one’s home, then delaying help becomes a risk.
A professional care coordinator can conduct an in-home assessment to spot the safety risks that you may not recognize yourself.
Bringing in a Professional Caregiver Supports You, Helping You to Remain the Son or Daughter
It’s inevitable that aging comes with the need for care —transportation to the doctor, help walking to the bathroom or assistance getting dressed or bathed.
Most conditions will only become worse as time goes on.
Over 34 million Americans are providing unpaid care to a senior every year. It can negatively affect a family caregiver’s health and well-being, and lead to lost hours at work, resulting in caregiver burnout.
It’s never too soon to build a relationship with a caregiver who you can trust around your loved one.
By thinking about this now, researching care options and making sure we are constantly aware of our loved one’s needs, we can be ready for whatever comes next.