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Give me a sign – How to tell a senior needs help

Seniors face unique physical and mental health challenges. But sometimes it can be tricky to spot an issue, or easy to dismiss one as just a normal part of ageing. However by knowing the signs to look for, you’ll be equipped to recognise any tell-tale physical, mental or social changes in your relatives before they become an issue.

Changes can creep up on seniors or they can be triggered by stressful circumstances including the loss of a loved one, moving home, chronic pain or loneliness. These triggers can impact anyone, however seniors are often dealing with a number of these triggers at the same time. So let’s look at behaviours which might be out of character and indicate that a relative is struggling and needs help.

Mental Signs

The most common challenges for seniors are cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. According to a 2017 WHO (World Health Organisation) survey, approximately 15% of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder. Plus mental health has an impact on physical health, and vice versa. Mental health warning signs can include –

• Changes in appearance, appetite and weight

• Confusion or disorientation

• Long term depressed mood, social withdrawal

• Fatigue and loss of energy

The good news is that senior mental health and wellbeing can be significantly improved through emotional support, increased physical activity and social connection. So it’s important to encourage participation in regular exercise through opportunities such as Feros Care’s active wellbeing programs or group social outings including those offered by Feros Care social transport.

Digital online communities can also enhance mood, encourage connection and stimulate the mind and body. Without leaving home seniors can join Feros Care’s Virtual Social Centre to dive into a community buzzing with games, entertainment, guest speakers, chat groups, interactive virtual tours, guided meditations and exercise programs.

Physical Signs

Let’s get physical. You can learn a lot by observing an older relative and their surroundings. From their physical appearance you can get an idea if they’re keeping up with basic daily routines – like brushing their teeth, showering and wearing clean clothes. If their grooming or hygiene standards are slipping they might not be coping.

Take a glance around their home to see if they’re managing household chores. Are dishes piling up in the sink? Is the laundry basket overflowing? Is their medication being taken? Is mail left unopened? Also observe if their mobility has changed. Can they easily get out of a chair and stand long enough to cook a meal? Are they quickly fatigued doing basic tasks?

It could be time to have a conversation about the many options available to help out around the home. The answer may be as simple as having a few aids installed in the bathroom, getting a walker or organising a cleaner once a week.

Feros Care can help you determine if a Government-funded Commonwealth Home Support Package or Home Care Package is an option to provide assistance with in-home services. Alternatively a Feros Care personal alarm can offer peace of mind and reassurance for seniors and their families. There’s also a range of in-home assistive technologies that can help seniors stay independent and safe. For example, Feros Care Telehealth Remote Monitoring can offer health support, reduce stress and boost confidence by regularly monitoring vital signs, easily and unobtrusively.

Social Signs

Maintaining positive and healthy friendships is part of living boldly and fully, but it can get harder to stay connected as you age. This is exacerbated when people have reduced mobility, hearing loss or mental confusion, which can cause them to become socially isolated.

So look out for the signs that a relative is withdrawing. Maybe they’ve stopped doing a hobby or activity that they love, or they’re finding excuses not to attend family events or outings. Talk to them about their weekly activities and try to find out why they’ve stopping being social. Physical limitations needn’t mean abandoning hobbies, as most can be modified to suit a person’s capabilities.

Feros Care social transport can provide support by offering transportation and making it easy for seniors to get involved in new activities and communities. Homebodies who don’t want to, or can’t, venture out can still meet people and embrace new experiences via Virtual Social Centre. This active online community is bursting with ways to stimulate mind, body and soul – and it’s a great way to kick-start new friendships.

The overall message is a simple and positive one – by intervening early many issues a relative may be facing can be improved through encouraging participation, being socially active and staying engaged in life. However if multiple, complex issues are converging, it might be time to consider residential care options. Feros Care’s vibrant residential villages can provide the opportunity for relatives to thrive, by delivering a wide range of mental, physical and social benefits.

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