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Do your elderly parents need help at home?

Do your elderly parents need help at home?

It can be difficult to know if your parents or relatives are not coping well as well as they might at home.  No-one wants to admit everyday activities become harder to do.  But, quality of life can deteriorate quite fast, so there are a few tell-tale signs to keep an eye out for.  The earlier that you can spot that they might need help the better.  

‘What help do my parents need? A practical guide’  will help you to navigate this new territory. 

1. Are things at home how they always were?

Are you noticing changes at home that don’t seem right?  Perhaps the post is piling up, laundry isn’t getting done and that once-spotless kitchen is looking a bit grubby.

2. Look in the fridge

Whilst we may all have something lurking in the bottom of the fridge that is well past its use-by date, you may find the state of the fridge a cause for concern. Check to make sure food is fresh and that there are enough supplies to suggest that regular meals are being eaten. 

3. Hair and makeup?

Your ever immaculate Mum may appear a bit dishevelled; often the last thing to go, but you’ll know it when you see it.  Is the laundry piling up?   

You might be able to spot the signs but equally they might be too embarrassed to discuss personal hygience. Try and be sensitive and talk about the practical difficulties of reduced mobility and need for extra help such as grab rails in the bathroom. 

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4. Are the bills being paid?

Are the bills getting paid, or are there reminders in the post? If you are able to look at a bank statement, does it look like their spending patterns have changed?

5. Is a health condition affecting life?

Has mum or dad recently been diagnosed with a health condition that may make life more difficult? A physically challenging condition, such as arthritis, means they won’t be able to get around like they used to. A mentally degenerative condition, such as dementia, may mean confusion, frustration and signs of unusual irritation.

6. Is my relative taking their medication?

If they take medication, do they have dosette boxes for their pills? Is medication being taken regularly or is it stockpiling? 

If one of your relatives is forgetting to take their medication, you may want to look at pill reminder apps. You can read more about these in our guide to Useful Apps for the Elderly.

7. Are my parents able to get out and about?

Are your parents still mobile? Are they able to walk to shops or public transport, or to drive themselves safely?

8. Have they got a social life and connections?

Are mum and dad starting to lose interest in the things they’ve always enjoyed?

Are they still seeing friends and responding to invitations? It might be that they’re not physically able enough to get out and about. Or they may have lost the confidence to go out; after a fall, perhaps.

9. Safe at home?

Perhaps your Mum is struggling in the kitchen – scalding, small burns etc?  Or they’re not out and about in the garden so much any more.  You might also find the house cold, and feeling that they are confining themselves to less and less space – possibly for fear of falling.  

Discovering that your parents are beginning to struggle may be subtle: a social worker told us that she knew things were difficult when a client told her they struggled to make the bed in the morning.  Doesn’t sound like a big thing – but for someone who has made their own bed every day for decades, it was a sign of decreasing mobility and dexterity at best. 

There may be some difficult conversations about more help.  You may not be able to solve everything at once, and more by stealth to start with. 

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