Ten Signs Your Loved One Could Benefit From a Care Companion

Independence is vital. Most of us take it for granted until we lose it. Start this conversation with someone over the age of eighty, and they will take your ear off.

Unless your loved one dies suddenly out of the blue or fairly quickly due to a quickly-progressing diagnosis, much of aging is going from Monday to Tuesday and Tuesday to Wednesday. It’s gradual. Then one day, the kids notice that Dad is repeating himself more often. Or losing things and becoming frustrated. Suddenly there’s a brand new laptop in the home when Dad already has a perfectly good one. What the heck?

At this point, we certainly are not experts in eldercare. We do know that SOMETHING needs to change, though. Our loved one may not need to move out of their home, but things are definitely getting forgotten, ignored, or missed.

Signs That You Need Some Help

1. Loneliness and Isolation

Loneliness is at epidemic proportions among the elderly. Even someone in good health can find themselves dealing with loneliness. Peers are fewer and health can be tenuous. Sometimes weather plays a role in getting out of the house.

Questions to ask: 

Has my LO’s personality changed?

Is my loved one (LO) acting sad, depressed, or exhausted?

Is my LO keeping up with his or her normal schedule?

2. Daily Activities Are Becoming a Struggle

Activities in this category can also include meal preparation, household chores, exercising, reading, writing and more. Perhaps driving has become intimidating or even dangerous for your loved one, so they are not just ‘running out to the store’ anymore. Maybe your LO is losing weight and existing mainly on protein shakes.

Questions to ask: 

Has my LO’s appearance changed? Is he or she appearing unkempt?

Does my LO seem to be eating well?

Is my LO’s environment fairly neat and orderly?

3. Mobility Becomes Challenging

Mobility can definitely be a chicken and egg situation, as a lack of mobility can exacerbate difficulties in other categories. If mom is unable to move around the house very well, she probably won’t be vacuuming, cooking or loading the dishwasher as much. She may also have difficulty getting dressed and taking care of her hygiene needs.

Questions to ask:

What tools or equipment can be used to improve mobility?

Is the mobility issue a short term or long term situation?

4. Your Loved One is Having Memory Issues

Repeating a story is one thing, but losing money/car keys/medication/etc. is something else. Visiting a neurologist, psychologist or geriatrician is a good idea, as their expertise and advice can be valuable in decision making. There can be a variety of reasons for memory issues, including medication interactions, so it is wise to investigate before making rash judgements.

Questions to Ask:

Is my loved one forgetting appointments, coffee dates, deadlines, etc.?

Does my LO seem more confused, anxious, or paranoid?

5. Medication Management

Medication can have a big impact on the quality of life of your loved one – for better and for worse. Approximately thirty-six percent of elderly patients take at least five different prescription drugs daily.

It is essential to have an extra set of eyes and ears when multiple medications are involved. Especially when being treated by more than one provider, communication among physicians is often a challenge.

Medication interactions are nothing to take lightly. Between seven and nine thousand people die annually due to medication errors, some of which are based on unforeseen interactions.

Questions to ask:

Is my loved one’s medication list up-to-date?

Do all of my LO’s providers have an updated list? Who is sending this updated list?

Does my LO understand what each drug is treating?

6. Decreased Interest in Hobbies or Activities

Is your loved one listless and bored? Is your mom no longer crocheting? And your dad doesn’t care about fishing anymore, when he used to talk about it nonstop?

These kinds of changes can negatively affect one’s quality of life. Regardless of age,  humans do better when they have something to anticipate, talk about and enjoy. And although changes in vision can impact one’s ability to sew, crochet, and knit, there are other hobbies that can help fill the void.

Questions to ask:

What are the hobbies my LO used to enjoy?

Is there any way to continue interacting with a version of that same hobby?

What are some pastimes that might be successful with my LO?

What community resources are available to the elderly?

7. Medical Appointment Management

Is your loved one bringing another set of eyes and ears to the doctor? This practice is highly recommended! With the limited amount of time physicians have, the speed at which they might speak, and the fact that mom or dad might be feeling sub-par that day, odds are that some of the doctor’s advice might not be fully understood, or even completely lost.

Questions to ask:

Are appointments being kept, or are they being missed?

Can your loved one schedule these appointments during a time when someone can accompany him or her to help take notes?

Does the physician have access to all pertinent scans and records?

8. Finances

Sometimes finance concerns are the first indication that things may not be going well at home. Overdraft charges, banking questions, strange, out-of-character purchases and more can suggest that your loved one needs more support in this area.

Questions to ask:

How are bills paid? Automatically? By check?

What systems does your loved one have in place?

9. Personal Hygiene Changes

Depression and isolation can lead to poor hygiene habits. It’s very easy to fall into the ‘I’m not going to see anyone today’ mindset. Unkempt nails, body odor and messy hair can indicate that your loved one needs support in the area of hygiene.

Questions to ask:

Can my LO manage a shower independently?

Are there any skin issues that might warrant specialized soap?

If in a facility, can my LO get a weekly wash and style appointment?

10. Housekeeping

When living alone, we become accustomed to our own ‘stuff’. We may not be bothered at all by the piles on the tables and chairs. When it becomes a safety issue (falling, attracting pests), or bills are being lost, though, it’s time to pay attention.

Questions to ask:

Is my loved one mobile enough to take care of necessary upkeep?

Is it possible to hire someone to come in to help with household tasks?

Next Steps: I Need Help! What Now?

Hiring someone to come to your loved one’s home can be a great strategy for allowing the LO to remain at home for longer. There are many types of support available for the elderly.

These roles can include a nurse, a CNA, a medication aide and a care companion, to name just a few. Depending upon the level of care needed, one may be more appropriate than the rest.

If there are no major medical issues, a care companion is a great choice. A care companion is someone who provides non-medical care to an individual, whether in the client’s home or in an assisted living/independent living community.

How Can a Care Companion Help My Loved One?

Care companions perform a variety of non-medical tasks for clients, including the following:

  • Light meal prep
  • Light housekeeping
  • Laundry
  • Companionship and conversation
  • Remind client to drink water, take medications and eat snacks
  • Play games
  • Do puzzles

These are just a few of the things care companions do for clients. When your loved one needs just a little help and would benefit from companionship, a care companion is a great choice.