Monitoring changes in our elderly loved ones

Six questions to ask yourself about a loved one if you’re worried about them as demand for elderly care support surges.

Over the last few weeks many of us have spent time catching up with loved ones we may not see often or that live alone to celebrate the festive season and bring in the new year.

With more of us spending quality time with loved ones over the last few weeks, new data from later living marketplace Lottie has revealed 70% increase in care seekers searching for elderly care support as we start the new year.

Whilst spending time with elderly loved ones you may have noticed small changes in their behaviour or appearance. Sometimes these can be a warning sign of a health concern or indication that your loved one may be struggling.

Hannah Karim, Care Expert Manager at Lottie shares the importance of spotting any changes in your elderly loved ones:

“It’s understandable to see such a huge increase in families concerned about their elderly loved ones’ wellbeing at the start of the year, as it’s easier to spot the signs someone may need extra support over the Christmas period.

The Christmas period is often a time where people notice changes in their loved one, including differences in their mood, weight, appetite, and interests. Any small changes – both physically and emotionally – may be an indication that they need additional support with everyday tasks. Since 29th December 2022, we’ve seen a surge of worried family members directly reach out to our care team, looking for support on finding a new care home in their local area.

As demand for elderly care increases, we’ve also seen a surge in carers seeking support online. Over the last 12 months online searches for ‘carers group’ has risen by 3,048%. We understand caring for an elderly loved one can sometimes feel overwhelming – but there is always support available. Lottie have recently launched Care Space – an online support group for carers to connect, chat and share their experiences and advice.”

Six Warning Signs That Your Elderly Loved One Needs More Support, According to Lottie’s Hannah Karim:

1. Are they eating the same?

A loss in appetite can indicate a minor health concern, including tooth pain. However, sudden changes in your loved one’s appetite (including a change in taste or digestion) and rapid weight loss are signs that they may not be looking after themselves, especially if they live independently. However, sudden changes in appetite and weight loss may be something you need to monitor.

Encouraging your loved one to eat little and often can help your loved one to eat regularly and stay hydrated. For example, foods rich in dairy (cheese, milk, and eggs), oily fish high in omega-3 and fruits and vegetables are all good options to maintain a balanced diet – especially as you age.

2. Are they drinking enough water?

Dehydration is a common challenge for older people, especially for those with dementia. They may not recognise the signs they need to drink more or be able to communicate their needs easily.

When you’re dehydrated, you may also experience low blood pressure, weakness, dizziness, and your risk of falls increases. From offering your loved one a choice of drinks, encouraging them to fruit and vegetables with high-water content and understanding their medication, you can support your loved one to stay hydrated.

3. Has your loved one’s mood or personality changed?

There could be many reasons why your loved one loses interest in their hobbies or activities they’ve enjoyed before. For instance, a loss of mobility, worsened eyesight or they may be experiencing low mood.

However, this could be the early signs of an elderly health concern, such as dementia. In the early stages of dementia, your loved ones’ mood may change more frequently than often, and they may become anxious, depressed, or more easily irritated.

These changes can be difficult for both those living with dementia and their loved ones. However, support is available. If you’re concerned about your loved one, you can speak to their GP or a medical professional on getting an early dementia diagnosis.

4. Is your loved one finding it difficult to move around independently?

If you notice reduced mobility in your loved one or they’ve experienced falls and trips more recently than before, they may be finding it difficult to move around independently and confidently.

You can help to reduce the risk of falls in an elderly loved one by taking simple steps, such as keeping their homes free from clutter and trip hazards, including slippery surfaces and poor lighting. However, if you do notice a significant decline in your loved one’s mobility, it’s important to seek support from a health professional.

5. Does your loved one share stories of social interactions or visits from friends and family?

Living alone and poor social connections increase your risk of experiencing loneliness. If you’ve noticed your loved one has stopped sharing any stories of visits or activities with friends or family members, they may be experiencing social isolation.

Loneliness is a major concern for the elderly and can lead to mental health conditions such as depression. From talking to an elderly loved one about their feelings and offering emotional and practical support, you can help them to prioritise their wellbeing.

Encouraging your loved one to join local clubs and groups is a great way to increase their social interaction and make new friends – reducing any feelings of isolation. From walking clubs and coffee mornings – there are lots of ways to boost your social life as you age.

6. Does your loved one experience frequent aches and pains?

Whilst joint pain especially in the knees, hips and hands are common in older adults, onset of dull aches and pains could be the sign of a health concern such as osteoporosis or arthritis.

Try to check in on your loved ones and monitor if they have any difficulty with everyday tasks such as, walking, cooking and opening jars or tins – this could be a sign your loved one is experiencing discomfort. A check up with a pharmacist or doctor can help your loved one to get the pain relief and support they need to live independently.

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