Have you noticed that your loved one's home is less clean than it once was? Is your loved one's personal appearance clean and neat or does their clothing show signs of repeated wear even though it is soiled? Is your loved one grooming or has he been unshaven for a number of days?
Is there a pile of unopened mail on the table? When you open the refrigerator, do you see only an old piece of cheese and an outdated carton of orange juice?
If these changes are noted, your loved one may be going through some physical or cognitive changes that effect his or her ability to care for him/herself. But the cause of the problem may not always be what it first appears.
For example, you might think that Dad is depressed and losing interest in his appearance. Instead, it could be that his hands have started to shake, making it hard for him to hold his razor steady or to use the iron. You may think that Mom is ill and has lost her appetite, when in fact she just finds the grocery store confusing and difficult to navigate.
These activities are referred to as Activities of Daily Living and can be broken down into two groups:
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living
Ability to Handle Finances
Ability to Travel Independently
Ability to use the telephone
Ability to take medications independently
Activities of Daily Living
Transferring from bed to chair
Loss of the ability to perform instrumental activities of daily living require consideration to what support an person needs in order to continue to live independently. These are the activities that older adults ask others
for assistance with when their ability to perform them become impaired. These activities are easy to support with the right help available through family, friends, or hired assistance.
Research study reports and experience indicate that older adults with disability on at least one instrumental activity of daily living item are frailer because they had more associated disorders, poorer cognitive function and more frequent falls.
Older people who do not have help for daily tasks such as dressing and bathing are much more likely to be hospitalized for acute illness than older adults who receive the help they need, a Purdue University study indicates, suggesting that reducing health-care costs for older adults may be as simple as providing them with a little household help each day. Older adults who qualify for nursing-home care because of their disabilities in daily tasks can continue to live in their homes provided they receive assistance with fundamental needs such as bathing, dressing and preparing food. Elders who lived alone without such needed assistance were more likely to require hospitalization. After a few weeks of help with daily tasks, however, the need for health care dropped off, implying that a little help with the basics goes a long way.
If a homemaker or personal assistant helps these frail elders for a few hours a day, they would be less likely to experience medical conditions such as hunger, dehydration, falls and skin problems that occur when disabled older adults do not receive needed help with daily tasks.