When Do You Need Long-Term Care?
Aging Matters

Most people want to stay at home but there may be a time when you begin to feel that home is a prison because it's too difficult to get out and shop, or even step out for fresh air. If you become too sick or physically unable to care for yourself properly, it might be time for another living option.

The key when searching for long-term care is to start early in the research. And more importantly, you need to know your personal health condition, strengths and weaknesses, and if you're able to remain self-reliant.

Unless you're in an emergency and need care immediately, start with the basics. It will help determine if long-term is necessary. Remember each situation is different and what worked for one person may not be the best option for you.

The first step is to assess the physical, mental, and medical frailty conditions. Are you slow to recover from an illness? The condition could compromise your general well-being, and getting outside care assistance to get back on your feet is sensible.

Remember, as you get older, the risk of falling increases. Do you have an ongoing chronic condition? Chronic illnesses can significantly affect one's body's strength and recovery time. What level is their self-care activity? Can you get dressed on your own, do house chores, manage medications, keep doctor appointments?

  • How frail are you physically? Are you losing or gaining weight? Do you have an appetite and are you eating well? Can you walk without holding on to furniture for balance? Is your gait steady? Do you slouch in the chair when sitting?
  • Are you mentally resilient? How social are you, or do you isolate, and reluctant to leave the house? If so, these are significant red flags that point to potential depression and forgetfulness. Other signs of mental decline are hopelessness and despair, listlessness, a change in sleeping patterns and losing interest in hobbies. Remember - people who have trouble with walking, memory, and hearing will pull away and isolate.
  • Are you on track with medical procedures? Do you forget to take medications? If you have multiple chronic conditions, you may have several medicines. Are you on track with recommended dosage and timetables?
  • The money signs of decline. Are you keeping up with household bills? Do you have unopened bills and unread newspapers sitting on the table? If so, be sure to look for overdue invoices, overdrawn balances, or other concerning communications.

Timing is everything. It's common to feel uncomfortable when thinking about long-term care needs, but you cannot dance around it. Don't wait until an accident happens or a significant illness occurs.

Carol Marak, aging advocate and editor at Seniorcare.com. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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