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When to Start Thinking About Long Term Care

November is National Long-Term Care Awareness Month, which got us thinking about timing. When is it time to start talking about long-term care to your aging loved one? How can you approach the subject with tact and dignity? How do you know you’re doing the right thing as a spouse, adult child, or other relative? If you have a loved one in San Mateo and elsewhere who is facing health, mobility, or memory care issues, it can be tough to think about the next steps (i.e., long-term care, hospice, etc.). But if you have the right support and guidance behind you, the process can be made easier.

What is Long-Term Care?

First off, let’s define what long-term care is. According to the National Institute on Aging, long-term care is comprised of many services that are meant to meet a person’s health or personal care needs, either during a short or a long period of time. The goal of these services is to help them live as independently and safely as they can when it becomes difficult or impossible to perform everyday activities by themselves. Long-term care can be provided in many different places by many different caregivers, depending on the individual’s needs. Often, long-term care, at least at first, is provided at home by family members and close friends who do not get paid for their services. Other times, long-term care can be provided in a facility such as an assisted living facility, nursing home, or adult day care center.

The most common form of long-term care involves personal care, things referred to as activities of daily living, or ADLs. These include:

  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Grooming
  • Toileting
  • Eating
  • Navigating the home or facility, such as getting out of a chair and into bed, or using the stairs if applicable.
  • Community services such as meals, transportation, and adult day care, some of which are free and some of which have a fee.

A person’s ability to care for themselves in their own home can be called into question when they can no longer do the above things on their own safety when they have experienced frequent falls, when they have a serious, ongoing health condition or disability, or when they have a sudden health crisis such as stroke or heart attack. In the majority of cases, though, the need for long-term care arises slowly and develops gradually over time as they age or their disease or disability worsens.

How to Know it’s Time For Long-Term Care

Most people don’t want to even think about long-term care, let alone plan for it. After all, who ever thinks they’ll need it when they’re young and full of hope? But an AARP report says that even among people who did plan ahead for long-term care when they were younger, 78 percent admit they should have started planning sooner.

But aside from financial planning for long-term care, most people wait until a major life event occurs before they start practical planning for how they will live each day.

There are a few major signs it’s time to have the conversation with your spouse, parent, or other aging loved one.

  • Need for advanced or constant medical attention: One of the biggest signs is if your loved one requires 24/7 medical care or advanced medical attention. This need can be spurred by many factors, such as surgery, injuries, debilitating conditions, general declining health, forgetting to take medication, and memory issues.
  • Neglect with personal care: Another sign is when there is a decline in personal care or hygiene. If you notice your parent or spouse hasn’t been regularly bathing, brushing their hair, brushing their teeth, or using the restroom properly, these are all red flags that personal care is starting to be neglected. Other signs include a cluttered or unclean home, wearing dirty clothes, and neglect of proper nutrition.
  • Mobility issues: Obvious signs include when the person falls frequently, has trouble walking up and down stairs or over long distances, or can’t get up easily from a chair. If you don’t see your loved one often, these are the signs that may be the last to be noticed. But there are other subtle signs you can pick up on, such as missing doctor appointments due to not feeling comfortable driving or the fear of getting lost, mail or newspapers left outside, or items left on the ground inside the home that have been dropped and not picked up.

If you notice any of these signs in your loved one, it’s time to sit down and have a conversation about long-term care possibilities. This can be a difficult discussion to have, particularly with a parent who is used to being independent and bristles at the thought of their lifestyle is threatened.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

If you are discussing long-term care with your family and declining health is an issue, we encourage you to get in touch with us today at 888-978-1306 to explore our hospice care services in San Mateo.