What is the real problem?
As we age, we may need more help to complete tasks that we may have been doing for decades. We may have been able to make meals for a family of five at one time, but now we struggle to make one nutritious meal. Maybe we could do errands and shopping for five or more hours at a time, now a simple trip to the grocery store is too tiring so we don’t eat well.
The issue is that we all think we are younger than our chronological years, and therefore more capable of doing what might be expected for someone our age. The other issue is pride. A person who had a responsible job and ran a household may be reluctant to have help to pay bills. “I don’t need help” is a common refrain I hear.
How to know when help is needed
How do you know someone needs help? The clues may be obvious or subtle. For example, a car accident that indicates the person is unable to navigate highway driving is a big clue. A smaller clue may be many unexplained scrapes and dings on the car or the sides of the garage. Someone who was a meticulous organizer may be a hoarder now or they may wonder why they didn’t get their utility bills this month when in fact they did receive them and failed to pay because they could not find them. The main point is to look for change.
An 85 year old who seldom sat down for dinner is different from an 85 year old who always made a balanced meal and now eats microwave popcorn each night for dinner. It is important to know what is normal and what has changed. If you are a close family member like an adult child it should be fairly easy to spot the difference.
What to do when you see help is needed
If you notice change the first thing to do is visit a health professional. While not keeping the house clean may be due to indifference, it could be cause by something as severe as Alzheimer’s or depression but could also be due to arthritis. All of these would require medical evaluation and treatment.
Change is not always normal for older adults. While we all slow down and may not remember everything, change in behavior or habits may indicate a problem. Issues like lack of energy, disorganization, poor nutrition may be symptoms of larger problems. Ignoring these problems will only make them worse over time.
What if the problem is not medically based but help is still needed? If you see assistance is needed but the older adult in your life refuses to accept outside help you need to take it slow and be respectful. That will be in my next blog.