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Published on November 19, 2018

home health worker assisting patient

Does Your Loved One Need Help at Home?

Holiday travel may lead you to the home of an aging friend or family member, and if it’s been some time since you last stopped in, you could notice signs that things are amiss.

Conditions that have seemed “fine” for months or years can worsen. Sometimes, a decline in health or ability can seem sudden. There are resources that can help.

“Knowing where to start if you do notice something seems off when you visit an older relative is important,” said Tricia Bussell, RN, Avera@Home Agency Manager. “Knowing the signs is a key part of finding solutions.”

Life at home, for anyone from 12 to 102, is all about freedom. But as we age, mobility and perception can dwindle. The signs of this happening to someone you love will vary, but could include:

  • Physical appearance is unkempt
  • Evidence of incontinence
  • Socially withdrawn, especially not going to doctor’s appointments or to church
  • Weight loss or almost no food in refrigerator or kitchen

“We do hear from some families that find a loved one has many unpaid bills or unopened mail in the home, or there maybe prescription or over-the-counter medication strewn around the home,” said Bussell. “We all can be guilty of falling behind on housework, but if you visit and notice a messy living environment, especially if they’re usually tidy, that could be an indicator of a decline.”

When to Talk, What to Say

Perhaps the best way to aid any family member is to discuss their wishes about home-health and aging today.

“Those discussions are never easy, but they are necessary and something everyone should share with their parents, adult children or grandparents,” Bussell said. “It’s better to talk about the options for home health, eligibility and insurance – all the aspects. That way, if or when a decline occurs, the whole family is on the same page.”

Agencies like Avera@Home can help you explore the options. Or you can talk with your primary care provider.

“At Avera@Home, our official role begins when patients are referred to us, and that usually begins with a doctor or provider’s instructions,” she said. “But some patients will self-refer, because they realize they need help. We also get cases where a concerned family member starts the process, and we work with the doctor, patient and the family to develop the best plan.”

Fear of Freedom Lost

Independent older people may bristle at the idea of getting help in the home. They may not see the signs their loved ones do, or assume getting help is the start of something ominous.

“We reassure people all the time that a little medication management help, or having someone there to help with laundry, cooking or bathing are common services,” Bussell said. “Our work is all about education and quality of life. If you get some help, or some answers to your questions, it doesn’t mean you’re going to leave your home or have to move. In fact, home-health services maybe what you need to stay home longer, in a safe way with a better day-to-day lifestyle.”

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