A big highlight of the holiday season is getting the whole family together. But spending quality time in each other’s company often means we notice changes in an elderly parent or other older relative that may have been overlooked before.
It can be difficult to approach the topic of arranging extra help or care at home for a loved one. We have compiled advice from carer experience and from Helping Hands, a live-in care provider, which covers some of the main warning signs to look for if you suspect a loved one may be in the early stages of dementia. By being able to recognise early indicators you can be confident that it’s time to start having a conversation about the options.
Physical changes or poor personal hygiene
A change in physical appearance, whether it’s a sudden loss of weight, a drop in personal hygiene or even unexplained bruises, is often the first warning sign that a loved one is need of some support.
You may notice that an elderly parent is struggling to stand up or move around. Regularly grabbing chairs, tables or door frames to steady themselves can indicate a deterioration in balance.
If a loved one has experienced trips and falls around the home, it is certainly cause for concern and time to consider arranging extra support. A fall can have huge repercussions for an older person – not just because of the physical injuries but also the knock it has on your overall confidence levels.
An unusually dirty or disorganised house
Although levels of hygiene vary greatly, if you notice a sudden drop in the cleanliness or tidiness of your loved one’s house, it may be time to source some extra help.
Help comes in many forms. You or another family member may have the time – and live close enough – to drop by to help with chores. Otherwise you can always consider paying for a weekly cleaner.
Care at home is another way of easing the pressure. A trained carer can assist with housekeeping, cooking meals, laundry and even running errands. Over time they can provide extra support with mobility and personal care as required, along with offering their ongoing companionship.
Confusion or changes in mood
Maybe you’ve noticed that a loved one seems uncertain or confused about completing tasks they were previously familiar with. They may be showing signs of poor judgment by falling for scams, whether it’s over the phone or through rogue traders visiting the house.
There may be sudden mood swings or even unexplained acts of aggression or agitation. Or maybe you’ve been alerted to some odd behaviour, such as inappropriate clothing or leaving the house at strange times of the night.
It can be difficult to monitor and assess mental changes in a loved one, especially if you live far away. You may be relying on a close neighbour or nearby friend to let you know if anything is amiss or if there are any problems. It can be a great source of worry.
If you’re concerned about a loved one who’s living with dementia, it may be time to look into options for specialist support. Because of the nature of the condition, many families find that dementia care within the home offers continuity and overall peace of mind as it allows their loved one to stay in the home they are familiar with.
Loneliness and depression
Low energy and a loss of enthusiasm or interest in hobbies can ring alarm bells, and could be a sign of depression. It may have been triggered by the passing of a loved one, losing confidence after a fall or simply that you have noticed deterioration in what they can do for themselves.
Age UK estimates that 3.6 million older people live alone in the UK, of which 2 million are over the age of 75. Surveys have shown that many feel invisible or ignored; with some saying they often go weeks without having a conversation with a friend, family member or neighbour.
It’s quite common for a loved one to resist getting extra help until it’s absolutely necessary, and this often happens when it comes to discussing dementia. Knowing the warning signs means you can start those conversations early and arrange the right type of support.
Author: Rachel Coleman
Rachel was a carer who is now writing in her spare time to promote awareness about dementia, Alzheimer’s and the importance of elderly care.