Signs that Long-term Care is Needed
Aging Matters

The task of searching for long-term care is chock full of need-to-know data - the person's health condition, their strengths and weaknesses, and if they are able to be on their on and alone? Family members want what's best for a relative especially when it comes to their safety, health, and well-being. And moving a parent to an assisted living facility is their default. Whereas, the older parent is headstrong on staying put and be free to go as they please.

When you buck heads, take a break and relax. Unless you're in an emergency and a parent needs care pronto, ease up and digest the following guide to 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 your parent.

Before deciding to seek help, the first step is to assess the physical, mental, and medical frailty conditions of your loved one. Is your parent slow to recover from an illness? The condition could compromise their general well-being, and getting outside care assistance to get back on their feet is sensible. As people get older, the risks of falling increases. Do they 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 they get dressed on their own, do house chores, manage medications, keep doctor appointments?

  • How frail is your parent physically? Are they losing or gaining weight? Do they have an appetite and are they eating well? Can they walk without holding on to furniture for balance? Is their gait steady? Do they slouch in the chair when sitting?
  • How resilient is your parent's mental ability? Have they given up on social activities? Are they isolating because of the fear to fall? Do they show reluctance to leaving 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.
  • Is your parent on track with their medical procedures? Do they forget to take medications? If they have multiple chronic conditions, they take several medicines. Are they on track with recommended dosage and timetables? Monitoring and managing meds is very confusing and overwhelming.
  • The money signs of decline. Are they keeping up with household bills? Are they checking the mail and responding to personal correspondence? Do you see 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 for family members to feel uncomfortable when talking with a parent about long-term care needs, but you cannot dance around it. The conversation must happen and the sooner, the better. Don't wait till an accident happens or a significant illness occurs. That's when emotions run high. Don't procrastinate and remember that timing is everything when it comes to family discussions on elder care.

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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