We get many calls each week from family members searching for answers regarding care for an aging parent or loved one.  Often they are only getting a “snapshot” of how their loved one is doing during a visit.  Some travel periodically from out of state to visit or even worse – have to rely on what information they can get from a phone call.  Obviously it is always best to see first hand in a visit how your elderly loved one is doing.  Some of the most apparent things to look for would be:

– How are they groomed (ie. clean shaven, nails trimmed, hair combed) are you seeing a change in their general hygiene and attention to personal care?

– Are their clothes clean?  Are they dressed appropriately for the time of day?

– Do they seem less alert, less oriented, less stable when they ambulate?

– How are they eating?  Are there items in the refrigerator that are outdated and unsafe? How well can they actually get their groceries and necessities?

– How compliant are they with their medications?  For example, missed doses, lack of organization of medications, expired medications?

– Does it seem like general household management is lacking (ie. light bulbs out, clutter, need for cleaning)?

When trying to determine how much or what type of non-medical homecare an elderly loved one needs it would certainly be important to discuss any medical changes with a physician or visiting nurse first.  Generally, if your loved one appears to be living safely at home and needs just some extra support it may be that a Homemaker for a few hours intermittently each week would be a great start.  A Homemaker can do general light cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and other household management functions.  If your loved one needs assistance periodically with personal care – like getting in and out of the shower, a personal care assistant can be added for a few visits each week (or even be scheduled for an entire shift if the person needs closer monitoring while the primary care giver is at work).  When more supervision is needed a Live-in Companion may be the best option.  Having this level of service would be best if the person needs the amount of supervision necessary to assure they eat right, take their medications, can move about the house with someone in attendance to reduce the risk of a fall or injury, or need help getting out of the house if there were an emergency such as a fire.