Whether or not you live far away from your family, the holidays can be one of the few times a year that you have the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time with your parents or older relatives. While you’re carrying out beloved traditions and creating memories during this special season, however, it’s an unfortunate reality that you may also discover that your aging loved one is having trouble at home.
Age-related decline can happen within a short amount of time, especially if your loved one is a senior living alone, which is why it’s so important to be on the lookout for the signs that your loved one needs help at home.
Evaluating Your Loved One’s Safety at Home
Even if you have regular phone conversations with your loved one, observing their health and behavior in person is the best way to reveal the difficulties they may be facing on a daily basis. While visiting your loved ones this holiday season, ask yourself the following four questions to evaluate their safety at home:
1. Has your loved one lost weight?
As the most obvious sign that your loved one needs help at home, a change in weight may be the result of a serious illness, like dementia, cancer, depression or heart failure. If you also notice spoiled or expired groceries in the fridge and cabinets, this could mean that your loved one no longer has the ability to make meals for themselves or that they are simply forgetting to eat regular meals.
2. How is your loved one getting around their home?
Watch your loved one as they walk across the room. Are they reluctant to move or do they struggle to get up after sitting down in a chair? If they show obvious pain while walking, your loved one may be suffering from joint or muscle problems, which increases their risk of falling. They may also be experiencing complications from Type 2 diabetes--whether diagnosed or undiagnosed--which can also be fall risks and health hazards. Since a cluttered home is another safety hazard for a senior living alone, be sure to observe the overall cleanliness of each room as well.
3. Is your loved one keeping up with their personal hygiene?
If your loved one is typically well-dressed and well-groomed and yet they aren’t even aware of stains on their clothing or their unwashed, disheveled hair, then this is a cause for concern. Neglected personal hygiene could be a sign that your loved one is suffering from dementia, depression and even dehydration, which is a common ailment for the elderly living alone during the wintertime.
4. Is your loved one experiencing more accidents?
Do you notice bruises, burns or any other signs of physical injury? Is there scorched cookware, broken appliances or any other evidence that an accident has occurred recently? Whether they’re a result of general weakness, forgetfulness or confusion, addressing these accidents right away is essential in ensuring your loved one’s safety at home.
Ways To Promote Safer Senior Living
It can be startling to see your loved one’s health decline, especially if you live farther away from them. The good news, however, is that there are steps you can take to ensure their safety at home, even from afar.
Should you notice any signs that your loved one needs help at home this holiday season, take advantage of the following tools and services that were specifically designed to help the elderly living alone stay safe and healthy in their home:
Invest in a food delivery service. If you’re worried that your loved one isn’t getting the proper nutrients or doesn’t have access to well-balanced meals, food delivery services like Meals on Wheels and Magic Kitchen provide nutritious meals to seniors. Plus, if you split the cost among multiple family members, it’s an affordable option that ensures your loved one is eating properly without placing this responsibility on a nearby family member, neighbor or friend.
Improve their mobility. Despite the common misconception, using a cane or walker actually improves a senior’s mobility and can even help make them more independent. If your loved one is suffering from limited mobility, you can have a cane or walker fitted to them. After they have received their new cane or walker, schedule a session with a physical therapist to ensure that your loved one knows how to use it properly.
Exercise is another great way to improve your loved one’s mobility. Not only will a regular fitness routine help your loved one maintain their independence, but it will also improve their balance and reduce their risk of falling. Help them sign up for an exercise class they’re interested in or find a fitness trainer for seniors so you don’t have to worry about them exercising alone.
Take advantage of personal care aids. Neglected personal hygiene is actually quite common among the elderly living alone because activities of daily living -- like dressing, bathing and grooming -- can be extremely difficult for seniors to complete on their own. Luckily, there are a variety of personal care aids available to help your loved one with these tasks.
If your loved one has difficulty dressing themselves, affordable tools like reachers, sock-aids, long-handled shoe horns and dressing sticks are all great options. Or if your loved one has more difficulty bathing, installing grab bars, non-slip mats, a transfer bench and a raised toilet seat will all help your loved one stay safe in the bathroom, where a majority of falls occur.
Ensure their safety year-round with a medical alert device. If you notice signs that your loved one has endured some physical accidents recently, this means that they are more likely to experience a fall, if they haven’t already. Since one of every five elderly falls results in a serious injury, it’s essential that you ensure your loved one’s safety at home. The best way to do that is with a medical alert device from Medical Guardian.
Our newest product line, Family Guardian, is the perfect solution if you’re worried about your loved one’s safety but live too far away to care for them. Once you install three unobtrusive sensors in your loved one’s home, you can remotely stay up-to-date on their health and safety throughout the day using the Family Guardian Monitoring App. You’ll even receive real-time alerts of your loved one’s activity, so, for example, if your loved one isn’t out of bed by noon, you’ll know to check on them right away.
The Family Guardian system is a great way for you to stay involved in the day-to-day activities of your loved one, whether you live 5 or 500 miles away from your elderly parent, making it the best way to ensure that you know what’s going on in their home more than just once a year.