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Home for the holidays - things to notice when visiting elderly loved ones at home

Published Monday 14 January 2019
  • Aged Care

The Christmas / New Year period is a time associated with joy and optimism – a time where families come together, share food and fun while remembering the year that was, and think about the year to come. Unfortunately though, it can also be a time where we begin to notice things that aren’t quite like they used to be, especially if we don’t get to see our elderly family members as often as we’d like. It may be something little that’s different, (such as the amount of time it takes mum or dad to get up out of their chair), but it may be an indicator that there’s a bigger issue going on. If you’ve been home for a visit in the holidays, here are five things you may notice that could be a sign that your loved one may need some more support.

  1. House looks unkempt Whether kept immaculately tidy, or a little bit lived in, most people are consistent in the way that they keep their house. If you notice a major difference in the state of the house, it could be a sign that your loved one is struggling with domestic tasks.
  2. Expired food in fridge/lack of food in house You may notice that your relative doesn’t have much food in the fridge, or that the milk is out of date and the pantry is almost empty. This could be a sign that they are struggling to leave the house to do their shopping, or they may even be worried about money.
  3. Malnourishment and changes in mood and behaviour If you notice a difference in your loved one’s appearance (they may look like they’ve lost weight), this could be an indicator that they aren’t eating regularly. Changes in mood or behaviour could also indicate that they aren’t eating properly or could also be a sign of health problems.
  4. Compromised ability/mobility Your relative may be struggling to walk, or they may take longer to get up from their chair. Perhaps you notice they’re struggling to hang out their washing or are unable to easily pick up the kettle. These can all be signs of decreased mobility or strength.
  5. Struggle with personal hygiene Your loved one may be struggling with showering or personal hygiene if you notice that their hair looks unwashed, their facial hair is untidy, or they may smell of body odour. Other indicators could be unclean clothes, poor oral hygiene, and untidy and long nails. 

Nobody likes to see their loved ones struggle, and it can be difficult to open up the conversation about getting support. Your ageing relatives have been independent for most of their adult life and may be resistant to change, or may feel embarrassed about needing assistance. Bringing up questions in a non-accusational manner can put the suggestion of accessing assistance out to them, without directly questioning their ability or independence. Questions such as, “would you find it easier if you had some assistance with showering/personal care?”, or “how would you feel about getting someone to help you with shopping/housework/cooking?” can involve your family member in the conversation and may help them feel more empowered in the process of accessing these services.

In-home care and respite services available at Wesley Mission Queensland

Wesley Mission Queensland offers a wide variety of home care services, from cleaning, maintenance and nursing care, right through to leisure activity support. We can also help with temporary and emergency respite in community centres and in our residential aged care communities. To find out more, visit our respite webpage or home care webpage, or call us on 1800 448 448.