Print Page

Knowing When an Aging Relative Needs Help

For many people, independence is something they fall in love with the very first time they experience it. Whether it's a teenager left home alone for the first time or a college student finally leaving the nest, that first taste of independence can be a wonderful thing, something most people want to maintain the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, as people grow older, independence can often be a detriment to their well being, leaving their loved ones in a difficult position with respect to their care.

Deciding to put a parent or an elderly relative in a care facility is never an easy decision, as chances are that person will want to remain independent. Relatives may also feel guilty about the decision - wondering if the facility can provide the best care. To help make the correct call, here are some things to consider, courtesy of AARP, that should help you rest easier with whatever you decide:

•Physical health. This is typically one of the more decisive factors in whether or not a nursing home is the right move for your loved one. Chronic disease, such as diabetes or arthritis, can greatly limit an elderly person's independence, sometimes making it impossible for them to live on their own. If you cannot care for them adequately enough, a nursing home or another facility might be your only option. In addition, heart disease, stroke or cancer can also rob loved ones of their independence, meaning a nursing home might be the best option for sufferers of these diseases as well.

•Mental health. Typically, Alzheimer's is a chief concern for relatives of the elderly. If your loved one appears disoriented most of the time or has regular feelings of confusion, professional help might be the best decision. Also, bouts with depression or anxiety can be difficult to deal with if you're not trained to do so. While these conditions do not mandate you put your loved one in a home, it may be necessary if someone cannot be available round-the-clock to provide care.

•Medication use. Pay close attention to the loved one's medication routine. If he's forgetting to take his medication or taking too much, or even failing to remember if he took it or not, independence is no longer a legitimate option. Too little or too much medication can prove to be a fatal mistake.

•Daily living skills. While few elderly people can get up and go like they used to, exhibiting difficulty with some of the more routine tasks a day presents could be a sign that help is necessary. Struggles with bathing, dressing or even using the toilet indicate a dwindling ability to live independently. Similarly, such struggles might leave you worried about your loved one's ability to cook and clean for themselves, which could lead to tragedy. Similar to other areas of concern, this should be looked at subjectively. If your loved one still has his mental health but might be struggling with some of the aforementioned tasks, perhaps having him move in with a younger relative or hiring someone to help him can help you avoid the nursing-home scenario. If no such support system is realistic, a home could be your best move.

•Home/community safety. Unfortunately, the elderly are often targets of crime, and are therefore vulnerable. If your loved one's neighborhood is not safe, moving them, be it to a home or a new place, is a good idea. Also, if your loved one's home requires upkeep that they are not able to physically do anymore, it could indicate they're not safe living alone.

•Support systems. No one should live in isolation, especially the elderly. If your loved one has a strong support system of family and friends that he regularly interacts with, that could be a sign that he's capable of continuing to live independently. While those friends and family should contact your loved one regularly and stop in to help out whenever possible, if your loved one is maintaining an active social life he could be all right staying where he is.

•Finances. Finances often play a significant role in what to do with an elderly loved one. If your loved one is capable of living on what he has and isn't exhibiting any significant problems such as forgetting to pay bills or regularly paying them late, finance concerns should provide no reason to move him. However, if your loved one cannot live on his current income or might have problems doing so down the road, consider your options. One thing to note is that nursing home prices are high, so consulting a financial advisor to help you is a good road to take.

While these areas are a good place to start, they should not dictate what you do nor should you ignore other possible areas of concern. To learn more about dealing with the elderly, visit the AARP Web site at

Print Page