Understanding Your Loves One's Needs

Understanding Your Loved One’s Needs

True story. I remember when my sister’s mother-in-law, Kathy, showed up at my niece’s third grade concert wearing skin tight leggings, a mismatched blouse that was opened all the way in the front revealing just her undergarments, and high heels. My sister quickly got up and threw a scarf around her as she escorted her to her seat. Truth be told, this may very well have been intentional; she is usually very fashion forward, keeping up with the latest trends at 82.

Then a few weeks later she showed up at my sister’s house with a damaged car. The problem: she didn’t remember how it happened. The final ‘aha moment’ came when my sister visited Kathy and walked into a condo full of paper towels all over the floor, which were being used to sop up urine from her dog. The sliding doors, my sister learned, were much too heavy for Kathy to slide open to let the dog out into the fenced in area and she didn’t have the strength to walk him around the neighborhood.

Couple all these things together and a pattern unfolds pointing to red flags over a lifestyle choice. The choice, though, for Kathy and 80% of seniors today, is to age in place. Is it possible to support her choice and address these issues? Absolutely, but it starts with understanding what their needs are so you can address them and maintain independence.

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For some adult children the signs may not be as noticeable as they were with Kathy. I know for my own grandmother we never would have known she needed help with ADLs (activities of daily living) until we started to see dust pile up on what typically was an immaculate credenza. This was a first for her and completely out of character. We knew right away she needed extra help, especially after we talked to her about it and she opened up about other more discreet concerns she was having.

Seniors who need support with ADLs or even IADLs (instrumental activities of daily living) are a growing population. An article in Forbes shows 21.7% of seniors need assistance with ADLs. ADLs are things like eating, dressing, continence, mobility, and hygiene, while IADLs focus more on difficulty with using the internet or phone, meal preparation, transportation, housekeeping, yard work, or medication management.

At first, these smaller signs don’t seem worrisome but eventually they may lead to greater concerns that can put seniors at risk for social isolation, injuries, or worse.. It’s better to address these signs early to keep seniors as independent as possible. That’s the message you can share with them, too, when you start the ‘need for home care’ conversation. It’s about supporting their desire to live at home.

How do you know if your aging loved one is finding it difficult to manage ADLs or IADLs? As a start, ask yourself these questions:
• Do you worry about them getting in and out of the bathtub or shower?
• Do they have issues properly dressing themselves or maintaining a style where they look their best?
• Are they unable to get on and off the toilet safely or without pain?
• Are you concerned with their mobility or falling?
• Are they having difficulties laundering their garments or cooking a nutritious meal?

If you answered yes to two or more of these, download this checklist from Homespire, an Intermountain company in the Salt Lake City, Utah area for more signs and next steps on what to do about it.

Kathy needed help walking her dog, someone to drive her around to maintain her social life once she was no longer driving, and someone to help her clean and fold her clothes so when she was going out she could easily grab them.

For my grandmother, she needed light housekeeping – once that happened she felt better about having friends over again. Her inability to clean had bothered her more than anything. A couple hours of support each week solved both of these seniors’ concerns and alleviated fear and stress for the families involved.

So go ahead and start the conversation, using this checklist as a guide. Show your aging loved one you are on board with helping them age in place and here’s how…

Share with us how you’ve helped your aging loved one age in place – share on!

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