Christmas and the summer holidays are a special time to spend together as a family, especially for grandparents, parents, neighbours or friends who live alone. According to the latest figures, one quarter of older people live alone – 69% are women and 31% men.
When you get together for the fun of the holiday season it’s a good opportunity to observe if grandma or grandpa or other elderly family are managing well. Look for any changes that might mean they need some help around the house or to get out and about. It’s a great time to have those critical conversations – many older people are reluctant to plan or get advice for their possible future care needs. This leaves many families in the dark about their elderly relative’s preferences, and adds significant stress if a crisis happens and decisions need to be made quickly.
Getting care at home when the first signs appear gives everyone peace of mind and often helps older family members to remain happy and independent in their own home for much longer.
To work out if loved ones need a little helping hand, check these five keys areas and talk to them about the best solution:
- Home safety
Any stairs, slippery tiles, high shelves and cupboards, cluttered walkways, slopes, loose carpet and rugs and uneven surfaces can become trip or fall hazards. A professional assessment by an occupational therapist can advise the appropriate safety measures and recommend the right assistive equipment and accessibility solutions – including handrails, chair-lifts to navigate stairs and walking aides.
- Early signs of Alzheimer’s
The signs include cognitive changes such as difficulty processing information, remembering simple items or tasks, and concentrating. There are also emotional and physical signs too, including changes to their personal care and mood. Early intervention can help reduce the symptoms.
- Decreasing hygiene or personality changes
While physical and emotional changes can be an early symptom of dementia, they are also linked to depression. Social isolation is one of the biggest concerns for older Australians, and a major contributor to depression. Regular exercise and maintaining social connections can help keep the mind healthy and the outlook on life positive.
- Health concerns
Many health conditions can be easily managed at home, provided that the person takes prescribed medication correctly, gets exercise and eats well. Fresh food and healthy meals can be delivered or prepared at home by an in-home carer.
- Loss of driving confidence
Many things can affect driving confidence, which is not easily restored. Without transport, simple things like shopping, getting to appointments or social engagements become very difficult. Find out what transport is available in the community or ask your local home-care provider about its mobility services.
Older family members who want to remain independent and healthy at home can take advantage of in-home care to assist with everyday living, jobs around the house and outings to the shops, appointments or social visits. Home care is considerably less costly than residential aged care, and can also provide companionship and help maintain social connections. About 800,000 older Australians receive home care.