Assessing the Needs of Elderly Loved Ones: Where to Begin

For people who have elderly relatives and loved ones in their life, there’s going to be a point where you begin to wonder whether living independently is the right option, or whether it’s time to get help in the form of a carer, supported living or a residential care home.

 

It can be a difficult decision to move a loved one into a care home. In fact, it can often be difficult to uncover whether someone does or does not need help. The change can happen gradually, so being able to assess and identify the needs of a loved one is a vital process in order to get the right level of care for them.

 

When it comes to assessing those needs, there are different elements of their living which you should take note of and keep an eye on. So, if you do have elderly loved one in your life and are getting a little concerned or confused as to what their needs are, here’s a short guide to help you reach your decision…

Assessing their mobility

As loved ones age, the risk of falls and accidents increases significantly. It becomes crucial to monitor their mobility and ensure their environment is safe and supportive. Here are some key considerations and steps to assess and address mobility issues in elderly individuals:

 

Understanding the Risks

Over the years, elderly individuals are at an increased risk of falls and other accidents. The likelihood of such incidents can rise due to a variety of factors, including decreased strength, balance issues, vision impairments, and slower reflexes. Recognising and addressing these risks early can prevent serious injuries and enhance the quality of life.

 

Evaluating the Home Environment

A home can be filled with potential hazards that might pose a risk to someone with mobility issues. Common obstacles include:

  • Stairs: Both indoor and outdoor stairs can be particularly dangerous.
  • Garden Pathways: Uneven surfaces and loose stones can cause trips and falls.
  • Furniture: Shelves, sharp-edged tables, and cluttered rooms can be hazardous.
  • Bathrooms: Slippery floors and the absence of grab rails can increase fall risks.

 

To mitigate these risks, consider making modifications such as:

  • Installing handrails on stairs and in bathrooms.
  • Ensuring pathways are well-lit and free of obstacles.
  • Replacing sharp-edged furniture with rounded alternatives.
  • Using non-slip mats and rugs.

 

Assessing Mobility

If there are concerns about a loved one’s mobility, conducting simple tests can help evaluate their risk of falling. However, it’s essential to approach this sensitively, maintaining their dignity and avoiding any perception of condescension.

 

One commonly recommended test involves:

  • Setting Up: Mark a line approximately 10 feet from a chair.
  • Instructions: Ask the elderly person to walk in a straight line from the chair to the marked line, turn around, and walk back to sit down.
  • Timing: Measure the time taken to complete this task. If it takes longer than 12 seconds, this could indicate a higher risk of falling.

 

Additionally, observe their walking patterns. Signs such as dragging their feet, shuffling, or difficulty maintaining balance can also be indicative of mobility problems.

 

Next Steps

If these assessments indicate significant mobility issues, it may be time to consider more comprehensive solutions. These might include:

  • Home Modifications: Further adaptations to the living environment to enhance safety.
  • Professional Help: Hiring a physical therapist to help improve strength and balance.
  • Mobility Aids: Utilising walkers, canes, or other aids to assist with movement.
  • Nursing Care: In cases where independent living becomes too risky, exploring the option of a nursing home or supported living facility might be necessary for their safety and well-being.

Analyse their approach to money and bills!

Monitoring your elderly loved one’s financial habits is not just a matter of ensuring their bills are paid; it can also provide crucial insights into their overall mental health. Changes in how they handle money can be early indicators of cognitive decline or other health issues.

 

Here are some detailed considerations and strategies to help manage their financial well-being:

 

Recognising the Signs

  • Missed Payments: Frequently forgetting to pay bills can indicate memory issues.
  • Unusual Transactions: Notice any uncharacteristic spending or transactions. This could range from sudden large purchases to multiple small withdrawals, which might suggest vulnerability to scams or poor financial judgment.
  • Confusion with Money: Difficulty understanding bank statements, managing, or basic financial concepts can be a sign of cognitive decline.

 

Protecting Against Scams

In today’s digital age, elderly individuals are particularly susceptible to telemarketing and online scams. Scammers often target older adults, exploiting their potential lack of familiarity with technology and their more trusting nature. To protect them:

  • Education: Teach them about common scams and how to recognise suspicious emails or phone calls.
  • Call Blockers: Use technology to block unwanted calls.
  • Monitoring: Regularly review their bank statements and financial activities for any suspicious transactions.

 

Assisting with Financial Management

As individuals age, keeping track of finances can become increasingly challenging. While this alone may not necessitate moving into a care facility, they will likely need assistance with managing their money. Here are some practical steps:

  • Online Banking Access: Gaining access to their online banking can help you monitor their transactions and ensure bills are paid on time.
  • Dedicated Accounts: Set up a separate bank account specifically for bill payments. This way, essential funds are safeguarded from being spent inadvertently.
  • Automated Payments: Where possible, automate bill payments to reduce the risk of missed payments.
  • Simplified Finances: Minimise the number of credit cards and bank accounts to make management easier.

 

Professional Financial Assistance

In some cases, hiring a professional can be beneficial:

  • Financial Advisor: A financial advisor can provide expert advice on managing assets, investments, and planning for future needs.
  • Financial Manager: For more hands-on help, a financial manager can oversee day-to-day finances, ensuring bills are paid and financial decisions are made prudently.
  • Legal Guardianship: In extreme cases where an individual can no longer make sound financial decisions, legal guardianship or power of attorney might be necessary to manage their finances legally and ethically.

 

Family Involvement

Involving family members can distribute the responsibility and provide additional oversight:

  • Regular Check-ins: Schedule regular financial reviews with family members to stay updated on their financial situation.
  • Shared Responsibility: Divide tasks among family members, such as one person handling bills and another managing investments.

Monitoring Their Mental Health

It’s crucial to monitor mental health throughout our lives, and this is especially true for older adults. Identifying depression and anxiety in the elderly can be challenging, but these conditions are just as common in this age group as in any other.

 

Understanding the Challenges

Older adults face numerous challenges that can impact their mental health:

  • Mobility Issues: Physical limitations can lead to feelings of frustration and helplessness.
  • Health Concerns: Chronic illnesses and the general decline in physical health can cause anxiety and depression.
  • Loneliness: As social circles shrink due to the loss of friends and family members, feelings of isolation can become overwhelming.

 

Cognitive Decline and Dementia

Conditions like dementia add another layer of complexity, with cognitive decline occurring at varying speeds. Dementia can significantly impact an individual’s mood, behaviour, and ability to communicate, making it essential to be vigilant about changes in their mental state.

 

Strategies for Monitoring Mental Health

  • Open Communication: Regularly talking about feelings is the best way to gauge a loved one’s mental health. Encourage open and honest discussions about their emotions and any concerns they may have.
  • Observing Behaviour: Pay attention to changes in behaviour, such as withdrawal from social activities, changes in sleep patterns, or loss of interest in hobbies. These can be signs of depression or anxiety.
  • Professional Help: Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you notice signs of mental health issues. Therapists, counsellors, and psychiatrists can provide valuable support.

 

Spotting Signs of Dementia

  • There are many resources available to help identify the early signs of dementia. These might include memory loss, confusion, difficulty performing familiar tasks, and changes in personality. Early diagnosis can lead to better management of the condition.

 

Support and Care Options

As dementia progresses, it can become a challenging time for both the affected individual and their family. Support is often needed to manage the condition effectively:

  • In-Home Care: Initially, in-home care can provide the necessary support while allowing the individual to remain in a familiar environment.
  • Residential Dementia Care: As the condition worsens, residential dementia care may become the best option. These facilities are equipped to meet the specific needs of individuals with dementia, providing a safe and supportive environment.

Hygiene and cleanliness

A loved one’s physical appearance declining could also be a sign that they need help with their day-to-day life. Unkempt hair, a lack of shaving or wearing unclean clothes can be a sign that they are struggling with their life and in need of help.

 

There may be many reasons for this, from struggling with mobility to get in and out of the bath, a lack of motivation and depression, or simply a lack of awareness that they’ve gotten like this.

 

That can be a sign of isolation and loneliness, while the same applies to the house in general if it’s become unclean, untidy and in disrepair. It’s important to step in and resolve the relevant issues, whether it be fitting more accessible bathrooms, helping with cleaning, encouraging them to get involved with activities, or a combination of everything, in which case supported living or a residential home may be a good option for them to get the help they need.

 

By monitoring all of the above on regular occasions, you’ll be able to assess what type of help a loved one needs, as well as adapting over time as help inevitably becomes even more required, and the best course of action can be taken.

 

If you would like advice on the best course of action for your elderly loved one, speak to a member of our expert team at Valorum, where we can run through the options and provide advice on the next steps to improve their quality of life.