10 Signs a Senior Needs Assistance

By Kevin Lee

One of the hardest things for humans to do is omit hubris and admit vulnerability. However, as much as we would like to have faith in our own immortality and strength, no one can go through life without a little bit of help. This fact of life becomes increasingly true in the golden years of life - after retirement - as seniors who have spent their whole lives selflessly giving and helping others must realize that it is time for the favour to be returned. As caring family members and friends, we have a responsibility to become aware of the telling signs when assistance is needed all the while avoiding patronizing society's best citizens.

Barb Silver is just one of many to find themselves in this situation: Her mother had long dealt with a variety of medical maladies stemming from obesity, including diabetes, high blood pressure, incontinence, and a lung disorder. Silver talked every day with her mom, who lived in Florida, had a paid caregiver (whom she later discovered was both inept and dishonest), and her mother was always her chatty, loud, boisterous self. Silver had no inkling all wasn't well until a physician called to tell her paramedics had found her mother in dire straits.

For Janice Shapiro it began a decade ago when her Philadelphia-based mom, now 93, started sleeping until 11, stopped bathing, and dropped 20 pounds she didn't have to lose. Judi Kaplan figured out her 81-year-old Southern California-dwelling mother needed extra help when she was ill last year, and Kaplan noticed a growing confusion and disorientation that turned out to be due to a mild cognitive impairment.

While it is important to use one's own judgment when making a decision such as this, the old adage "better safe than sorry" cannot be more apt. When dealing with a loved one's health and vitality, it is always best to err on the precautious side and become concerned when a few warning signs appear.

10. Predators
Older seniors, especially those who live alone, are more vulnerable to con artists who befriend the elderly and try to scam them out of their money. Such situations could indicate that a senior's judgment is failing. Unfortunately, as Silver discovered, a predator could be a neighbor, relative, or caregiver. "My mother loaned a caregiver $3,500 that she never got back," she says.

9. Finances
Bills routinely left unopened or unpaid equal bad news could be a sign of cognitive decline although may just be a symptom of poor organization. However, the key is to notice a change in behaviour and attitude as Kaplan found, "Mom used to obsess about her financial situation, and then she seemed confused about everyday money matters."

8. Community
Neighbors or those who work for the person in your care may notice changes in her behavior. Maybe he or she goes out less than she used to -- or not at all. Perhaps papers and mail are stacking up outside. Check in with them. "My mom's gardener told me she kept calling him in to help her find her check book," says Kaplan. "He really noticed a marked change in her ability to cope."

7. Orientation
Confusion about time of day was an early clue for Silver that something was up. "My mom kept asking why the caregiver wasn't there, and I kept explaining it was nighttime and she came in the morning." Difficulty navigating surroundings away from home can also be a telltale sign that someone needs help. On an outing to the shops or a restaurant, observe if she can walk alone and how she adjusts to new situations. Often the elderly function fine at home but challenges are more apparent in less familiar settings as well as when driving.

6. Bruises
Signs of injury, such as bruises, could be evidence of falls. Seniors who've fallen in the past are at greater risk for repeat falls, which can lead to serious injuries. Some seniors try to keep falls secret because they feel embarassed or just might not remember the incident. "Mom used to say, 'I don't know how I got such a big bruise.' We quickly figured out she was falling," says Kaplan.

5. Medications
Lots of unused pills in the cupboard, or confusion about how, why, or when meds should be taken are danger signs. Managing meds can take some initial set up (such as a pill box) but the need for reminders on a daily basis could mean bigger issues.

4. Health
Maybe there's just a general sense that something isn't quite right, such as persistent fatigue or lack of energy. Follow your instincts and make a doctor's appointment for the person in your care -- and go along with her, if you can.

3. Housework
A home that's dirtier or more cluttered than it used to be -- with piles of dirty laundry or dishes -- can indicate something is awry. Hiring a house cleaner can take care of such concerns, but an untidy or poorly maintained house may also indicate physical decline or depression, as it did in Shapiro's mother's case.

2. Nutrition
Unexplained weight loss is a sign of poor nutrition, as Shapiro found out. Her mother simply stopped cooking. Look in the refrigerator: Little or spoiled food could indicate that a senior isn't cooking meals or eating well.

1. Hygiene
Poor grooming or unmet basic self-care needs, such as bathing, are often an early heads up that someone is in declining health. "My mom used to be very neat and clean, but she started to wear the same clothes over and over again, and she couldn't see the food stains," says Kaplan.

Source: AOL Health

Home Care Assistance offers the highest quality 24/7 live-in home care in the Region of Halton (Oakville, Burlington, Halton Hills, and Milton), Region of Peel (Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon) and Hamilton.

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