It is not always obvious if an older adult needs assistance. In fact, change often happens so gradually that you may not notice a deterioration in their cognitive and physical functions until it has become critical. Deterioration in functions typically creeps up on an older adult and their friends and family. So we need to talk about how you can know when to give your parents or older adult assistance.
The first thing to do is to take your older adult for regular professional assessments where a comprehensive review can assess their environmental, mental and physical condition and determine if they can still live independently and whether there are any risks that need to be taken cognizance of. Such an assessment will help preserve the dignity of your parents by giving you an objective measure of their condition. You may find that while you thought they needed assistance, they in fact can cope fine on their own. You may also find that you are able to detect, very early on, the signs of decline and take early interventions to help your parents.
If you can get objective insight into their condition early on, you can do something about it before negative outcomes start to affect their daily lives. You can also look for a few red flags.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that every year, a quarter of older adults suffer from a fall. These falls may, at the extreme end, cause disability and even death. To reduce the risk of falls, you need to evaluate your parents’ living space, looking at areas where they are at risk of falling, unsafe stairs (especially those without railings) or even slippery rugs. Go around the house or, if you can, have a certified ageing-in-care specialist do it, and figure out where a fall would happen and then do something to prevent it from happening.
You also want to ensure that your parents have a living space that allows them a great freedom of mobility. Reduced mobility reduces, in effect, their living space and this can lead to social isolation and feelings of loneliness. Ultimately, this can lead to depression and mental decline.
Feelings of depression can be hard to detect among older adults. They are allowed to feel down on occasion, to miss their departed friends and family, or to feel a sense of nostalgia. They may even worry about their finances and how they will survive the rest of their days. These things are normal. But their normalcy does make it hard to detect when they are symptoms of depression.
What makes this even harder is that people associate depression with a particular mood, with not being able to get out of bed, or things of that nature. Look instead for changes in energy levels; loss of interest in things they used to love; anger or irritability; trouble sleeping; over or under-eating; and suicidal notions or lingering on death. These are fairly robust markers of depression. You can get your parents into Skylark Senior Care and other such programs where they can enjoy a sense of community while maintaining some semblance of independent living. This will help them fight off feelings of social isolation and loneliness, which often trigger depression.