• Jenni Perkins

Christmas time - looking out for warning signs that extra help might be needed

As families come together at Christmas it is often the first time that family members have the opportunity to observe warning signs that an older family member is becoming frail and may need some extra help.

It may be that they have lost weight or you notice the fridge has no food in it or is full of uneaten or spoiled food.

There may be piles of unopened mail and unpaid bills. The house may not be as clean or tidy as what it usually is or the garden, generally meticulously maintained, is overgrown.

There may be new or unexplained dents on the car or scrapes on the garage wall or fence, suggesting that their driving skills are declining.

You might notice that your parent has difficulty getting out of their chair, or that they have unexplained bruises which may be signs of declining mobility and risk of falls.

Their personal grooming and hygiene standards may have declined from last time you visited.

They may have lost interest in previously enjoyed activities and hobbies, or stopped going out. They may seem more confused or forgetful than usual.

It is important not to jump to conclusions and immediately think that it is time for an older family member to move into a nursing home. However, it may be time to talk about what might be helpful to support an older family member to stay living independently and safely at home.

It might be that support such as home help or gardening, assistance with shopping or meal preparation, or having someone visit to provide social support could make a difference.

It can also be important to check that they have recently visited their doctor; that medications have been reviewed and are up to date; and that factors such as poor eyesight and hearing loss are not contributing to changes in behaviour.

Through timely planning, the right support at the right time can maintain an older person’s independence and quality of life and keep them connected and safe at home.

Go to Live Well Longer free resource ‘Signs More Help Might Be Needed’.

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