Too many to-do lists this time of year! You may already be putting together your shopping lists, family social schedules, and meal plans for the holidays. But the staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care suggests you may want to consider creating and consulting an additional checklist: deciding if a loved one really might be ready for home health care.
You don’t have to check it twice like Santa, but you can use the various social opportunities and times for gathering as chances to observe friends or family if you or others are beginning to get concerned that someone might be displaying certain signs and behaviors, or may need the kind of assistance around the house that would make them good candidates for home health care.
They don’t have to, or shouldn’t, know that you’re doing this either – if you’re only at the casual observation stage at this point, that may mean you haven’t had too many tough conversations yet about if they think they would benefit from this level of care. And knowing they are under observation might make them nervous or anxious.
Some of these discussions are OK waiting until after the holidays – unless the person and family members are already actively considering home health care in the near future, their anxiety might negatively impact the fun and togetherness of the holiday season. This time of the year should really be a time when people get together and try to enjoy the moment.
However, if you and other family members do want to casually keep an eye out for certain behaviors or conditions, all of the various social situations, rituals and togetherness of November-December-January celebrations can do it, such as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. People of the Jewish faith may enjoy getting together for Hanukah, and there are other less-known occasions that could conceivably turn into social occasions. November is National Family Caregivers Month, National Gratitude Month and Family Stories Month.
There doesn’t have to be an official holiday either. Maybe everyone still makes a tradition of getting together some time in December for breakfast, brunch or dinner, or just for fun. There’s might be formal dinner to rival Thanksgiving in terms of its complexity, or something more intimate and casual, maybe a few people getting together to watch a movie or a game.
What to watch for
The range of behavior and abilities varies for everyone, and seeing a certain behavior may not necessarily be an actual, accurate diagnosis. But it still can be a good starting place in assessing their needs going forward. Here are some things to keep an eye on:
- Safety. Does the person forget things that could injure themselves or others? Perhaps this could be simple tasks like leaving the stove on or having the thermostat set too high or too low. Spoiled food can also be dangerous if eaten. Do they have more bruises than usual? Forgetting to take medications or taking the wrong ones can also potentially impact someone’s health and be a strong indicator of the need for more care giving.
- Memory. Do they forget names and details more than usual? A gradual decline is normal, but significant failures to remember names of friends or family, steps in recipes or even traditions could be a sign of dementia or other mental impairment.
- Mobility. Is the person having greater difficulty moving around more than past holidays or other occasions? Do they need to take breaks between tasks or have more balance concerns?
- Emotional. Are their moods different than usual or do they shift moods faster from happy to sad/angry? Do they get stressed or frustrated more?
- Physical changes. Are they eating more or less? Are they sleeping more or less? Both of these can affect mental health, and the opposite is true as well. Is it more difficult to do basic tasks such as dressing or grooming?
- Perspective from caregivers. If your patient already has a caregiver, their input can be sought as well. Is the patient’s physical or mental needs growing beyond their level of care or medical expertise? Does a care agency offer respite services?If the subject of home health care has already come up in normal conversation, the holidays could still be a good opportunity to continue these discussions about different services in your area, including types of therapy. Some agencies offer massage therapy, light housekeeping, personal care, nursing services meal preparation or other assistance on errands and other items that may help patients, especially those unable to do them anymore or uncertain if they can. Their reaction to learning more about some of these options can be a good guide how to proceed with these discussions after the holidays.
Though home health care isn’t as disruptive as someone having to relocate to another facility, and may even be appreciated, the thought can still be a fearful change.
Above and Beyond Home Health Care is happy to provide information about available services or to discuss if someone might be a good candidate for home health care.