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6 Signs your elderly relative is beginning to struggle with self care

Julie Lord

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We all get older and as we do our bodies begin to function less effectively. Some people will find they have difficulty with the physical aspects of looking after themselves but be mentally sharp, while others will have a gradual decline in mental capacity due to dementia.

The effects of ageing are usually very gradual and it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact moment when you realise that your relative needs help. Indeed, they may be reluctant to accept that they are having difficulty with day to day tasks themselves. However, there are some signs you might see that point to you having to have a conversation about their care needs, now and ongoing.

1. Can they keep up with the housework?

A bit of dust isn’t necessarily an indicator that your relative is finding housework hard, but if their standards are slipping then it might be time to think about whether or not they can look after themselves.

2. Do they remember appointments and medication?

Forgetfulness is a common symptom of dementia and in the early stages it may be the most obvious one to the non-specialist. If your relative suddenly seems much less organised than they used to be or is muddled and confused about the calendar then they may be struggling in other areas.

3. Are they able to dress themselves?

Arthritis can make simple tasks such as doing up buttons or pulling on socks very difficult for your relative. If you notice that they are choosing to wear clothes with fewer fastenings it could be that they need assistance. If they are really struggling you may find they remain in the same nightclothes for several days at a time.

4. Is their personal hygiene suffering?

Getting into the bath and cleaning oneself after using the toilet can become extremely difficult as joints age and get stiff. If your relative is finding that their sense of balance is declining they may be nervous about stepping onto wet floors with the result that you may notice that they have personal hygiene issues.

5. Are they restricting their activities to remain downstairs?

Climbing stairs can be problematic for older people. Similarly, you may notice that they are neglecting a previously well-tended garden because their mobility is diminishing.

6. Have they had a problem recognising you or seemed surprised by your visit?

Dementia can cause confusion and memory loss, leading to difficulty in keeping track of events. Calling you by the wrong name or getting common words confused may also be a sign that all is not well.

Spot the signs and take action

If you spot signs they are struggling then taking early action is the best way to ensure that your relative will be able to remain in their own home.

A study by the Live-in Care Hub reveals that many people leave it far too late to seek assistance, leading to an increased risk of falls and injury. So it is important that you regularly take some time to assess your elderly relative’s ability to live independently and arrange homecare services sooner rather than later.


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