One of the most important issues to consider when making the tough decision to move your relative into care is the amount of time they currently spend alone.
Loneliness is one of the most significant difficulties facing older people in the UK, with the Local Government Association recently calling it a 'major public health issue'.
As partners and friends move on, or family move away vulnerability to social isolation increases, which has a substantial impact on older people's mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Moving a family member into residential care is never an easy decision, it is a difficult step to take both emotionally and practically. Sometimes however, it is the best way to guarantee your loved one's health, safety and happiness.
Care homes provide an older person with long-term quality support, and a community that can be a second family for those who may otherwise spend large amounts of time alone. They do a fantastic job at making sure residents are happy and healthy and can reduce stress for both your family and loved one.
But, how can you feel confident that your loved one should no longer be living alone?
Below are five signs to look out for that may suggest you should be considering care.
While this may seem like an obvious one, it is worth finding out if your loved one has had any accidents or close calls recently. Often accidents or near-accidents go unmentioned by those who don't want to worry their family, or feel embarrassed. A few questions you should consider asking are who would respond to an accident and how long would it take? Would your relative be able to seek medical care when needed?
Noticeable weight loss and other appearance changes
One clear sign that something is not quite right with your loved one is changes to their appearance. Weight loss is an important sign to look out for; when you hug your relative do they feel frail? Many different conditions that require attention can cause weight loss, for example depression or dementia. A person who struggles to get to the shop or doesn't remember to eat, can quickly see deterioration to their health. Other changes in appearance may also be a sign they need additional care - are they able to wash and groom themselves properly? Do they wear clean clothes? A noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care is an indicator your loved one needs additional support.
Does your loved one still engage in social activities or hobbies that they used to be fond of? Do they still get together with friends or neighbours? Loneliness can prove to be harmful for elderly people; it lessens their quality of life and is associated with depression and a worsening of related symptoms. Ask yourself honestly, how often are you able to spend time with your loved one during the week? How long do they go without seeing anyone? In some instances moving your loved one to a place where they can be with other people every day, could be lifesaving.
Check their kitchen
The condition of your loved one's kitchen can tell you a lot, it is a room that people often spend a large amount of time in. Something to look out for is the quality of food available, is your loved one eating properly? Is the food in the fridge well past its expiry date? Expired food may be a sign that a relative is not eating, and multiples of the thing can be a sign of forgetfulness or dementia. It is also worth checking their appliances and making sure everything is working. One final question to ask yourself is, do you feel they are able to operate appliances safely? If you are not confident that they will remember to turn appliances off, this becomes a concern which could put your loved ones safety in jeopardy.
Lack of home maintenance
Look out for signs of neglect in and around the home. Is your loved one picking up mail? Are they able to keep on top of their bills? If there is a lot of clutter around the home, and grime building up in the bathroom or kitchen, this may be a sign that living in a house alone has become too much for your relative who may need the housekeeping taken care of for him or her. Untidiness in a once - neat home - can also be a strong sign of dementia.
One final thing worth considering is your own health. Providing care for your loved one, unsupported, can lead to high levels of stress, anxiety and in some cases depression. This will inevitably lead to a worsening of the quality of care you are able to provide. In such instances, while difficult, moving your loved one into care can be the best decision for you and your family.
Care homes and their staff will have a deep understanding of the challenges and illnesses older people face, and they are fully equipped to deal with the complex problems that arise. They are able to provide full-time support as well as ensure their residents are content, entertained and comfortable, and can provide that all-important companionship to people as they age. There are some amazing care communities providing expert care for older people, and if there are strong signs your loved one is struggling alone, it is worth considering residential care as the best way to support them.