For many people, it may be difficult to determine if a loved one needs help. Sometimes changes in individuals are very noticeable, while other times they are more subtle. The following list includes some of the more subtle warning signs that a senior may need help.
- Changes in eating habits, such as no appetite or missed meals
- Neglect to personal hygiene
- Neglect to home environment—it is not as clean or sanitary as it normally was
- Exhibited inappropriate behavior by being unusually loud or quiet, paranoid, agitated, or making phone calls at all hours of the day or night, or excessive phone calls to loved ones
- Changed relationship patterns with friends and loved ones
- Had physical problems, weakness, forgetfulness, or possible misuse of alcohol or prescribed medications, or is forgetting to take medications
- Decreased or stopped participation in activities that were previously important
- Exhibited forgetfulness resulting in unopened mail, piling newspapers, not filling his or her prescriptions, or missing appointments
- Mishandled finances such as not paying bills, losing money, paying bills twice or more, or hiding money
- Made unusual purchases such as buying more than one magazine subscription of the same magazine, entering an unusual amount of contests, or increasing the usage of purchases from television advertisements
If you have noticed some of these changes in your loved one, it is time to get them some help. Caregiving can be done through a professional agency or through family and friends. The caregiving role can be very rewarding, but it also means a lot of sacrifice on the part of the family caregiver and their family. “On average, caregivers provide personal care assistance and household maintenance chores for 12 hours per week. In addition 28% give care for 8 hours or less, 36% provide help for 21 hours or more, while 11% provide “constant” care” (American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and The Travelers Foundation (1988). A National Study of Caregivers: Final Report. Washington, DC: American Association of Retired Persons).
Caregivers who don’t get the help they need can wind up doing more than they are able to and end up with caregiver burnout. This not only affects the caregiver but it can impact the caregiver’s family, as well as the senior they are caring for. Some of the symptoms of caregiver burnout are fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression.
Some of the things you can do to prevent caregiver burnout:
- Make use of respite services. Respite care provides a temporary break for caregivers. Respite can be provided in the home with the caregiver getting some needed time away or can be a short stay in a long-term care facility to give the family a break.
- Keep in touch with friends, take some needed time for yourself. Don’t isolate!
- Join a caregiver support group.
- Be realistic about your loved one’s condition. There may be a time when their needs are too great to be managed in your home, and it may be time for placement in a long-term care facility. This is not a negative reflection on you; it is just part of the disease process.
- Finally, know your limitations and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
—Cheryl Wilson, Elder Care Coordinator