There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of when is the right time for home care, due to variations among individual health levels as well as in the abilities of the elderly to live on their own, performing routine tasks such as self-care or housekeeping. Some may need assistance sooner, due to an accident, surgery, or debilitating illness, while healthy individuals may be able to live independently well into their 80s and beyond. Mental health issues often crop up late in life such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, making caring for elderly relatives even more challenging.
Learning to recognize the early signs of need or family caregiver stress will assist you in your evaluation. While each individual is different, there are common factors that you can look for to determine the necessary levels of care. Sometimes people won’t admit they need help to stay at home, and others may be unaware that it is time for some extra help to maintain a healthy and safe home environment. Knowing and watching for signs that could indicate extra assistance is needed may fall on family, friends, or advisors.
Recent accidents or close calls. Did your loved one take a fall, have a medical scare, or get in a fender bender (or worse)? Who responded and how long did it take? Accidents do happen, but as people get older, the odds rise of them happening again. A slow recovery. How did the person you’re caring for weather the most recent illness (for example, the flu or bad cold)? Was he or she able and willing to seek medical care when needed, or did last winter’s cold develop into untreated bronchitis?
A chronic health condition that’s worsening. Progressive problems such as COPD, dementia, and congestive heart failure can decline gradually or precipitously, but either way, their presence means your loved one will increasingly need help. Increasing difficulty managing the activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). ADLs and IADLs are the skills needed to live independently — dressing, shopping, cooking, doing laundry, managing medications, and so on. Doctors, social workers, and other geriatric experts evaluate them as part of a functional assessment, which is one way to get an expert’s view of the situation. Difficulties with ADLs and IADLs can sometimes be remedied by bringing in more in-home help.