It can be difficult to know if your parents or relatives are not coping well as well as they might at home. No-one wants to admit everyday activities become harder to do. But, quality of life can deteriorate quite fast, so there are a few tell-tale signs to keep an eye out for. The earlier that you can spot that they might need help the better.
1. Are things at home how they always were?
Are you noticing changes at home that don’t seem right? Perhaps the post is piling up, laundry isn’t getting done and that once-spotless kitchen is looking a bit grubby.
2. Look in the fridge
Whilst we may all have something lurking in the bottom of the fridge that is well past its use-by date, you may find the state of the fridge a cause for concern. Check to make sure food is fresh and that there are enough supplies to suggest that regular meals are being eaten.
3. Hair and makeup?
Your ever immaculate Mum may appear a bit dishevelled; often the last thing to go, but you’ll know it when you see it. Is the laundry piling up?
You might be able to spot the signs but equally they might be too embarrassed to discuss personal hygiene. Try and be sensitive and talk about the practical difficulties of reduced mobility and need for extra help such as grab rails in the bathroom, or a shower stool.
4. Are the bills being paid?
Are the bills getting paid, or are there reminders in the post? If you are able to look at a bank statement, does it look like spending patterns have changed?
5. Is a health condition affecting life?
Has mum or dad recently been diagnosed with a health condition that may make life more difficult? A physically challenging condition, such as arthritis, means they won’t be able to get around like they used to. We’re all good at making small adjustments to take into account a physical ailment – but these can quickly build up into quite a different daily routine.
6. Is my relative taking their medication?
Dosette boxes are great for managing daily medication. It is a good idea to check if medication being taken regularly or is it being stockpiled? If different types of medication build up it can become an overwhelming task to take it all in the right order on the right day.
7. Are my parents able to get out and about?
Are your parents still mobile? Do you need to have the driving conversation? Are they able to walk to shops or take public transport? This is probably one of the hardest conversations to have and situations to manage.
Personal Alarms can be a great way to keep your parents independent while giving the family more reassurance that they are safe and well. Find out more about personal alarms here.
8. A social life and connections?
You may find that parents are becoming less sociable. Whether because of decreasing mobility or sadly because lifelong friends are dying, life can become increasingly confined.
If your relative needs care with a large number of the points raised, they might benefit from a live-in carer. Live-in carers can help with meals, bed-time, getting out and much more. Find out more about what a live-in carer can help with.
9. Safe at home?
Perhaps your Mum is struggling in the kitchen – scalding, small burns etc? Or they’re not out and about in the garden so much any more. You might also find the house cold, and feeling that they are confining themselves to less and less space – possibly for fear of falling.
What to do now?
Discovering that your parents are beginning to struggle may be subtle: a social worker told us that she knew things were difficult when a client told her they struggled to make the bed in the morning. Doesn’t sound like a big thing – but for someone who has made their own bed every day for decades, it was a sign of decreasing mobility and dexterity at best.
There may be some difficult conversations about stopping driving, or getting more help. You may not be able to solve everything at once, and more by stealth to start with.
There is lots of information and guidance on Age Space. Our Dorset Home Care Finder is a good place to look for help. But our Top Tips for taking care of elderly parents and relatives may be a good starting point.