Do you wonder if your loved one is ready for aged care?

Considering care for an elderly loved one, your spouse or yourself is never an easy overnight decision. It’s something that should be thoughtfully considered, expressed and discussed with all family members, in a gentle and loving way.

But how do you know when it’s time to start thinking about care options? There are a few factors to consider, and today I’m going to share with you 10 Signs Your Loved One is Ready for Aged Care.

These signs will often become more obvious during times of increased stress and activity, or even during times of celebration; events such as Christmas or holiday dinners, birthday events and outings, or other large get-togethers can be stressors for our elderly. You may see something that makes you stop and think “is this a sign they need extra help?”

What are the signs?

To help you, I’ve put together this list, which will be split into three categories: physical, mental and emotional. These signs are the most obvious markers that you or your loved one may need some additional help with everyday activities: getting dressed, cooking, showering, and cleaning to name a few. Some people may be physically capable but isolated and lonely or at risk in the community.

Bearing in mind setting up and receiving approval for care can take several months, it is wise to pre-plan. So if you are concerned about your loved ones, start considering care options rather than a wait-and-watch approach. It is heartbreaking to see our family decline while we madly scramble to get a care plan together.

These are the signs to look out for

Physical signs:

  • Falls – if your loved one tends to stumble and trip, it could be a sign they need assistance. They may be struggling with balance problems or muscle weakness, and in some cases may even suffer broken bones as a result of the fall. If they currently live alone and are having a lot of falls, they will need additional help sooner rather than later.
  • Hospitalisations – if your loved one has been having increased hospitalisations (due to falls, low or high blood pressure, or other health concerns like Parkinsons disease or chronic UTI’s) it could be time to discuss care options, particularly if they are living alone. Having a trusted friend, family member or care staff to turn to can be pivotal in maintaining health and wellbeing.
  • Trouble moving around – this can include difficulty with stairs, steep driveways or big houses; your loved one may have trouble climbing the front steps, or become winded walking the long driveway. If you notice that they are struggling with these things, it could be time to have a chat.

Mental signs:

  • General Forgetfulness – this is the type of forgetfulness that everyone will experience once or twice; you forget where you put your keys, or can’t remember if you paid the water bill or not. But as a sign, pay attention if your loved one is increasingly forgetful. Is it a once-off occurrence, or are they constantly forgetting things?
  • Memory Loss – your loved one may be dealing with mild to moderate memory loss. This is different from general forgetfulness. It’s the loss of certain names, faces, events or facts. This may present itself in forgetting birthdays, not recognising familiar faces or forgetting the details of previous conversations. Some become at risk in the community as they can display such behaviours such as, uncontrolled spending, getting lost, lack of insight and judgement.
  • Confusion – mixing up words, struggling with numbers or losing track of a conversation are all red flags. Confusion can also be an early sign of more sinister conditions, like Dementia and Alzheimers, which require ongoing care. If you are concerned about these possibilities, it might be worth a trip to your GP.

Emotional signs:

  • Loneliness – being lonely and isolated can have awful effects on the body and mind, from eating disorders to anxiety. Possibly the cruelest part of loneliness in the elderly, is that they have a tendency to become even more withdrawn, further isolating themselves from friends and family.
  • Depression – changes in the body and mind due to aging can greatly increase the risk of developing depression and anxiety. This often causes the person to further withdraw from society, fuelling the disease in what we call a Spiral of Depression.
  • Changes in personality – when your otherwise happy-go-lucky relatives suddenly become brooding, quiet and reserved, it could be a sign of illness or unhappiness. This might be caused by many of the other points on this list, like loneliness, depression or physical or mental disability.
  • Loss of a loved one (e.g. spouse) – it’s inevitable that at one time or another we will lose a loved one, and it’s always a huge loss. The pain and heartache can be particularly hard-hitting for our elderly, especially if this leaves them living in solitude, suddenly needing to be independent, possibly for the first time in decades.

If your loved ones begin to exhibit some of these signs, it is wise to check-in with them. Have some gentle, but firm conversations about the changes in their life, and ask if they need help. Chances are they might only have a few minimal struggles, and may well continue living at home for some time, possibly with some basic assistance from friends, family or a district nurse.

It can be very taxing on family and carers over time,  and your loved one may benefit from having some residential respite care.

However, if they begin to exhibit multiple signs, and in particular signs of serious mental or physical disease, it is time to start talking about more permanent care options. These signs are reminders that someone is ready for aged care. Remember, as troubling as this may be for you to witness, it may be twice as scary for your loved one – so always approach these discussions with kindness, understanding, and support.

What are the next steps?

If you are struggling at all, either with determining if you need to investigate care options, or with discussing these options with your loved one, please do reach out. This is a very personal and emotional decision for many families, and it can help to have someone who specializes in aged care to talk it over with and propose different options.

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