How to tell when your loved one might need support (and how to approach it).

In this day and age we are working longer and harder which means caring for our aging relatives is difficult as we juggle work, home and other commitments.

You may see your loved one regularly which is fabulous, or you may not be lucky enough to live close by and so monitor things from afar. It can be incredibly easy to miss that they are struggling unless you spend a lot of time across the day in their home. There are some quick and discreet ways to check that your relative is managing with their activities of daily living.

  • Mobility
    Watch the movement, particularly getting in and out of their chair, to make sure that they are still able to do this with relative ease. Look for bruising that might mean that your loved one is getting a bit wobbly and bumping into things. This may be low blood pressure that can be easily managed medically.
    Ask them to fetch you something, or follow you upstairs to ensure the stairs aren’t presenting a problem. Some older people may begin sleeping downstairs or not washing properly due to fear of using the stairs.
    If you drop something would they be able to safely pick it up? If not, this may mean they cannot access freezer drawers or do laundry.

  • Meals/Nutrition
    Look out for burns or scalds that may mean there is some difficulty holding pots and pans or managing the cooking.
    Check discreetly for out-of-date foods in the fridge which could indicate that your loved one isn’t eating as much or as regularly as normal. If you can, check food levels regularly so that you can more easily notice how much is (or isn’t) being eaten.

  • Personal Hygiene
    Unfortunately, it might be very obvious if someone is no longer washing properly. This may be due to begin scared about getting in the shower, for which assistance and aids can be sought or even because the will to continue to take good care of oneself has diminished as life becomes hard.
    Check for stained clothes, wearing the same things over and over, lack of laundry and towels & flannels being dry and unchanged.

  • Medication Mismanagement
    It’s a really good idea to get an idea of what medication should be being taken regularly, that way you can check stock levels and expiry dates to ensure they are being taken as prescribed.

  • Financial Neglect
    The best way to spot that someone is no longer able to manage their bills is to keep an eye on the post for red letters, or overdue notices. As banks become more inaccessible, and with a whole generation not au fait with internet banking, this is sadly quite common.

  • Unusual new behaviours
    Dementia is a very scary condition to contemplate for you and your relatives. It can also be very easy to hide in the early stages. It might be something small such as getting mixed up with the days of the week or the time of day, or maybe you are hearing the same story over and over again and they are regularly losing common items around the home.
    It may be that a memory assessment with the GP is appropriate, but sometimes it can be stress and exhaustion that is causing the confusion, an ageing version of ‘baby brain’. So, if we can fix any potential issues above, it might improve.

Struggling with day-to-day activities doesn’t always mean you need to jump to home care.

If mobility is a concern, it would be well worth asking your GP to do an Occupational Therapy referral. The OT will visit the home and watch your loved one mobilising before ordering (free!) appropriate equipment such as walking aids and hand rails.

If this is a step too far, there are some great mobility showrooms in Farnham and Horsham where you can browse their range and buy aids to make life a little easier.

We’ve detailed some great ideas to support with meals over in our blog on meal delivery services {insert link}.

If you’re concerned that your mum or dad isn’t taking their medication as prescribed there are a couple of options; you could buy a dispenser that you pre-fill with a weeks’ worth of medications. This comes as a standard time and day of the week plastic pots, or you can get an alarmed dispenser that looks a bit like a UFO but sounds an alarm at a pre-set time which doesn’t turn off until the tablets have been taken. You can also use Alexa or phone alarms to prompt the taking of medications as they should be.
Most pharmacies also offer a service of putting the tablets into a blister pack, where the medications are divided into the correct times of days and days of the week. A lot of pharmacies provide this for free, but there may be a waiting list. If not the cost is usually nominal, and well worth it, at about £5 per month.

If you feel like finances are becoming a struggle, support your loved one to set up direct debits or the Royal Mail can facilitate diverting all post to your address so that you can manage this for them if you’ve already been insightful enough to put an LPA in place.

Sometimes nothing else is as reassuring or effective as physical support. When approaching the need for care it is important to go in gently, avoid the word ‘carer’ if you can.
Talk to your loved one about how useful a ‘companion’ or some ‘home help’ might be. These are old-fashioned terms that might help them to feel better about employing a service to support them.
We all need some help from time to time, irregardless of our age and abilities, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
Remind your loved one that YOU have a cleaner, dog walker, accountant to help you out with tasks.
Offer to be with them to meet a few companies and pick one that you both feel comfortable with. And, even then, if it doesn’t work out it doesn’t matter.
Most good companies have a two-week cooling off period which allows you to try the service risk-free.
We usually find that after a couple of weeks, most clients wonder what they did without us, have built a friendship with their Care Pro and look forward to their visits.

Sometime relatives are resistant to support because, deep-down, they worry that it means they will see a lot less of you.
Even if they don’t bring this up to you directly it is usually in the back of their minds. Reassure them that you will continue to be a big part of their lives, but perhaps now have more time to do fun things such as go out for a meal or shopping, rather than cleaning the home or doing shopping.
Our service hopes to support family members to remain just that, not carers, in order to maintain that close relationship and minimise feelings of burden and being overwhelmed.

Domiciliary care can offer support with keeping the home clean and tidy, meal preparation, shopping, medication administration, mobilising safely and much, much more.
If you have concerns over your loved ones memory and cognition, getting a service involved as early as possible means that you create a team of advocates that can support their clients to live life the way they would like to, even when they forget how to themselves.