The phones at Family Resource Home Care usually begin ringing more often following Thanksgiving and don’t let up until mid-January. The reason? During the holiday season families often come together and may notice that an older family member isn’t doing as well as they had been. Perhaps they’ve lost weight, or they aren’t participating in conversations, or their walking, mood, or personal hygiene seems off. It can be particularly difficult to spot problems in older couples because they become very skilled at compensating for each other and have learned to mask issues like memory loss or a physical decline.

When we answer the call from a concerned family member our process is to ask some basic questions and then have the caller speak to one of our intake professionals. If the caller decides to move forward, an appointment is scheduled for a free in-home consultation and assessment by a client-care supervisor. They will meet with the potential new client and their family to explore what they are seeing, what their concerns and needs are and how Family Resource Home Care can help.

But sometimes families are hesitant to make that first call. They don’t know what to look for to decide if their family member really needs help. “We don’t expect families to become detectives, but we do suggest that it’s important to look beyond the surface to see how an older family member is doing,” says Sheila McKannay, Family Resource Home Care’s Vice President of Client Care.

Things That Families Can Look for in Home Care

Mental Health

  • Is she able to carry on a reasonable conversation without a lot of questions and repetition?
  • Does she seem sad, depressed, angry or anxious? Does she have rapid mood swings?
  • Is she forgetful?
  • Does she get disoriented outside her home? Has she wandered off?
  • Has her interest in others changed? Does she interact socially?
  • Does she engage in meaningful activities at home and elsewhere?
  • Does she still seem interested in life?

Physical Health

  • Is she able to take her medications independently or from a medication box?
  • Does she have a medical condition (diabetes, heart disease, hypertension) that needs monitoring?
  • Have her strength, stamina or sleep patterns changed?
  • Has her appetite changed? Is there noticeable weight loss?
  • Does she have frequent or occasional incontinence?
  • Has she fallen recently? How steady is she while walking?
  • Is she limping or have swollen feet or legs?
  • Are there any vision or hearing problems? Are glasses and/or hearing aids being worn?
  • Does she complain of pain?

Personal Care

  • Is her overall appearance acceptable?
  • Can she continue to manage personal care such as use the toilet, brush her teeth and feed herself?
  • Is she keeping up with her oral care? Are her nails trimmed?
  • Has she been to the doctor in the last 12 months? Did her doctor do a medication review?
  • Does she keep herself clean? Are there unpleasant body odors?
  • Is her hair combed? Are her clothes clean? Can she dress herself?
  • Is she able to dress appropriately for the weather and occasion?

Managing her Home

  • Is she able to reasonably maintain her home?
  • Does the refrigerator look clean and contain fresh food or is the food old and moldy?
  • Can she use appliances including a telephone, TV remote, stove and/or microwave?
  • Is the trash taken out and the toilet flushed?
  • Is she still driving? Has she had an accident in the last 12 months?
  • If she’s not driving, does she have a support system or other way to shop and get to where she needs to go?

In addition to the checklist above there are a number of other useful needs assessment lists and worksheets on the internet including one from the National Caregivers Library and another from the AARP.

Whether or not you’ve done your own informal assessment, we’re here to help you sort through your situation and options. If you want to talk, simply call one of our Client Care Supervisors or Contact Family Resource Home Care. We’re here to listen. We’re here to help.

photo credit: 20071211 015 Hanuka candles at the Richters’ via photopin (license)