Many families are resistant to the idea of moving their loved one into a nursing home, thinking that it will be full of bland meals and hospital gowns. But good nursing homes aren’t all like this and sometimes assisted living really is the best option for everyone. If you think that your loved one might need assisted living, then you are probably wondering what the signs are that they need professional care. Here are eight signs to watch out for in aging loved ones:
Their home presents safety concerns.
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A chronically messy home is often one of the early signs that an older adult needs care. Many housekeeping and yardwork tasks involve both physical and mental effort, which are hard for frail older adults to accomplish on their own. For example, if they have a yard, the grass might not have been mowed in a while, the flower beds might not have been weeded and the leaves might not have been raked. Inside the house, you might notice dirt on the floors, dust on the furniture, dishes in the sink and piles of dirty laundry everywhere.
Their personal hygiene is declining.
After the house, one of the first daily tasks that older adults tend to struggle with is personal grooming. They may start bathing or showering less or neglect upkeep such as trimming their hair and fingernails. You might notice bad breath or body odor when you visit them as a result of this, as well as clothing that is wrinkled, stained, smelly or otherwise unkempt. Once adults can no longer take care of their own personal hygiene, they need some level of care — either from family at home or in an assisted living facility.
Their mobility is getting more limited.
If your loved one cannot sit, stand or lie down without assistance, it might be time to look into a nursing home. Mobility is critical to pretty much all daily activities, from cooking to personal hygiene to driving. Compromised mobility also makes your loved one more prone to falls, which often result in head injuries, broken bones and fractures and other serious injuries. Moving them into a nursing home can reduce their risk of a fall and will ensure that someone is always around to assist them with their mobility.
They can’t drive a car or run errands.
Not being able to drive a car safely presents a huge safety hazard to both your loved one and other people on the road. Even if they don’t have a car, they might have difficulty navigating public transportation to the point where they can no longer run errands on their own. While more delivery services for groceries and other essentials are becoming available, it’s still important that your loved one be able to get out for medical appointments and other necessary in-person errands. If they can’t do that on their own, then they might need to move into a nursing home.
They are losing weight.
Cooking food involves a lot of planning and physical effort. You have to plan the meal, get all the ingredients at the store, do all the prep work, actually eat the meal and then clean up the dishes afterwards. Many older adults struggle with their tasks and, as a result, they end up turning to frozen or prepared meals, or just skipping meals altogether, which can lead to weight loss. Losing weight can also be the symptom of an underlying medical condition, so if you notice your loved one looking thin, it’s important to get them checked out by a medical professional.
They are experiencing mood changes.
Older adults are vulnerable to different kinds of mood swings. For one, dementia and other memory conditions can lead to aggressive outbursts, including yelling and taking off nursing home clothing, that can be hard to manage at home. Older adults are also more likely to become depressed due to their increased social isolation, and they may also choose to make themselves more isolated as a result of their depression. Look out for major mood swings and speak to their doctor about care and treatment options if you notice signs of either dementia-related aggression or depression.
They have a late-stage medical condition.
Late-stage medical conditions, such as dementia and diabetes, require advanced care and sometimes 24/7 attention. This sort of medical care is difficult to provide in the home, especially if loved ones have not been properly trained or have jobs and other demands on their time. Nursing home staff should be specially trained to provide care for these medical conditions, and certain facilities actually specialize in memory care for those with various kinds of dementia. If your loved one needs advanced or around-the-clock care, then definitely consider assisted living.
At-home care isn’t working.
Perhaps the clearest sign that your loved one needs assisted living is that you have already tried at-home care — and it’s not working. Some elderly people have memory or medical issues that require advanced care that simply can’t be provided by a volunteer family member at home. Some people also don’t have the time or support necessary to care for a family member full-time. It usually takes at least two people to care for a loved one, and it will take more if the caretakers have other significant demands on their time such as a job, children or other aging relatives. If you’ve tried at-home care and it’s not cutting it, don’t feel bad about looking into assisted living. You did all that you can, and sometimes you need to call the professionals.
As your loved ones age, keep an eye on them to watch for signs that they might be ready for a nursing home. Moving into assisted living is a big decision, but getting the care that they need is important for their continued health and well-being.