When it comes to caregiving, there’s no blanket moment in time that applies to everyone, or a finite and specific set of criteria that dictates when it’s time to provide care for a loved one. Every person, family and situation is different, so it’s important to look for signs that can indicate when it’s time to step in.
Your loved one seems down
If you’ve begun to notice that your elderly family member or close friend doesn’t seem like themselves lately, it might be time to consider taking on the role of caregiver. Signs of depression and loneliness, whether manifested in a lack of communication with family and friends, loss of interest in things that previously sparked joy, or disregard for personal responsibilities, can indicate that this person’s physical and mental wellbeing are at risk.
In taking on the role of caregiver, you can help reintroduce your loved one to the people and activities that make them happy – for example, arranging get-togethers with their friends or joining in on hobbies like knitting or crossword puzzles.
Your loved one struggles with basic tasks
As we get older, it inevitably becomes more difficult to live completely independently. So, if you find that your loved one is struggling with basic household tasks like cooking, cleaning, matters of personal hygiene or even driving, it could be another clear indication that they need assistance.
As their caregiver, you can remove the burden of those responsibilities and the stresses that come along with them, allowing your family member to focus solely on maintaining their mental and physical wellbeing.
Your loved one appears unsteady on their feet
Most homes aren’t designed for seniors, so at an advanced age it can become much more difficult to navigate living spaces independently. If your loved one appears unsteady on the stairs or getting into the shower/bathtub, experiences pain in their legs and back when walking around, or has difficulty getting out of bed or off the sofa, they could be at serious risk of falling.
According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans, and one in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year. As their caregiver, you can help make (and keep) their home a safer space. Each home is different, but consider adding more lighting for increased visibility, removing clutter and obstructions from the floor, installing ramps and handrails where necessary, and keeping outdoor spaces clear and free from the elements.
Your loved one frequently forgets to take their medication
Missing medication doses is an extremely dangerous, yet unfortunately common, occurrence among older adults. And while not immediately fatal, it can be a sign of short-term memory loss or depression. Whether you manage their medications in person or set them up with an automatic pill dispenser like Pria, you can help ensure they’re taking their prescribed doses at the correct times.
Your loved one is having trouble managing their money
It might start with stacks of unopened mail, which seems harmless enough, but don’t rule out a larger issue. We’ve all been guilty of leaving unopened junk mail laying around the house, but when bills, medical information and legal documents are going unread for weeks or months at a time, it could indicate that your loved one is cognitively or emotionally unable to manage them.
Depending on the level of neglect, your assistance could mean anything from simple prioritization to becoming a money manager (or hiring one). Whatever your specific situation calls for, having help managing important documents and financial decisions will relieve a lot of stress for your loved one and could substantially increase their quality of life.
These are some of the most common red flags that we see in aging adults, but don’t rule out other possibilities. You know this person better than anyone, so be on the lookout for anything that seems unusual or out of the ordinary. If you’re seeing a combination of indicators, it’s probably time to take on the caregiver role.
As you begin to navigate this new phase in your life, don’t forget the importance of caring for yourself as well. Finding caregiver support and taking the time for self-care will enable you to provide the help needed long-term while staying happy and healthy yourself.