How to Spot When an Aging Loved One Needs Help

Asking for help is never easy, especially for an aging loved one used to being self-reliant. Yet as seniors grow further into their golden years, they may need a great deal of help keeping up with day-to-day tasks. But it's not uncommon for seniors to let basic needs go entirely unmet before they tell another person that they're no longer able and need help.

How do you help in such a case? It's important to avoid putting an elderly person on the defensive. "Elder Care Made Easier" author Marion Somers advises using "I" statements. Instead of saying "You need to clean your kitchen," for example, you might say "I see the kitchen could use a good cleaning." Opening up the conversation to include a physician, or even a representative from an agency working in elder care, can also defuse any potential confrontation before it starts and move the conversation in a constructive direction.

Signs That a Senior May Need Help

It's important to keep an eye out for warning signs that an elder isn't practicing good self-care. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs offers a helpful checklist of indicators that greater help is needed, which include:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Food going bad in the refrigerator
  • Not taking medicine correctly
  • Leaving mail unopened and bills unpaid

If you see signs like these, you should look into what resources your community offers. Many states administer programs that provide services such as health insurance counseling, delivering nutritious meals, bathing and dressing and even checking in on the care a nursing home facility is providing.

While help with daily living can be essential for the elderly, so too is proper estate and health care planning. For example, an advance directive can allow an individual to direct doctors and a health care proxy as to what kind of medical treatment he or she would like in the event of physical or mental incapacitation. What hospital, nursing home or treatments they would like, whether they want home care and other important health care options can provide the elderly - and their loved ones - with reassurance they are being treated the way they would want.

In addition, a will, living trust and durable power of attorney can allow an individual the chance to prepare for both the financial obstacles of elderly health care and the ability to provide for their loved ones after they have gone.

Vigilance and proper planning are vital to meeting the needs of a senior and providing the best possible care. Contact an estate planning attorney to discuss the best way to care for your aging relative legally and financially.