Does your elderly loved one live alone? Do you sometimes worry? If so, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, 83% of Canadian boomers would prefer to age at home. While it’s great that so many seniors want to remain independent, adult children often wonder how well their aging parents are coping.
Luckily, technology has made it safer and easier for seniors with serious health conditions to live at home. Communication apps can be especially useful. By connecting patients, their family members, and health care professionals face-to-face, the right app can improve care in ways that home phones never could.
But how do you know if an app is right for your relative? The truth is, your elderly loved one could benefit from a video call from you even when they’re doing well. Seeing the smiling faces of family members is enough to cheer anyone up.
That said, in some circumstances, checking in face-to-face is especially important. In this post, we’ll look at a few signs that it might be time start using a communication app.
His standards of cleanliness have changed
Have you visited your elderly loved one in person recently? If so, it’s possible that you’ve noticed some changes in her or his surroundings.
Let’s say your father—who’s always been a stickler for keeping things tidy—has left dirty dishes in the sink. What might this change mean? And how concerned should you be?
The answer is, it depends. Out-of-character behaviour could be a sign of a mental health, cognitive, or mobility issue. On the other hand, it could just mean that your loved one’s priorities have shifted.
In these situations, it’s important to keep an eye out for future behavioural changes. Video calls could help you assess how your father is doing on a regular basis—without making him feel like you’re interrogating him. Through face-to-face conversation, he may open up.
If you discover that your elderly loved one is having difficulty taking care of his home, there are solutions. If the problem is reduced mobility, the answer may be as simple as finding a home care worker who can do light cleaning.
She can’t easily recall her medication details
Has your elderly loved one ever had trouble taking a medication correctly? Misinterpreting instructions—or simply forgetting to take a pill—can lead to serious consequences. It happens a lot. In Canada, 1 in 5 older adults is admitted to a hospital due to medication.
Let’s say you ask your mother about a medication and receive a confusing response. Perhaps she needs help understanding her instructions. In this case, you would potentially want to connect with her doctor or pharmacist for clarification. The right app would make this process easy by ensuring you have access to everyone involved in her care in the same place.
If your mother were forgetting to take her medication, an app like aTouchAway would also enable you or her doctor to set automatic reminders for her. She’d receive a notification on her tablet whenever it’s time to take a medication. If your mother ignored a reminder, a nurse could send an instant video call to follow up.
When it comes to medication, a communication app can make life easier for your elderly loved one. And you and your family members will worry less knowing that you’ve implemented extra support.
That said, forgetfulness can, in some cases, be a sign that intervention is necessary. If you have concerns about cognitive changes in your loved one, it’s important to talk to a relevant health care professional.
He’s putting less effort into his appearance
Much like an untidy house, an unkempt personal appearance can be a sign that your loved one needs help. The extent of the change is a factor to consider. If your formerly well-dressed father is wearing the same stained shirt every time you see him, there may be cause to be concerned.
Once again, this issue could be caused by a mental health or cognitive issue, or your loved one could be having trouble getting around.
When it comes to hygiene, safety concerns may be at play. A slip in the shower can leave a senior feeling anxious about bathing again. This possibility is worth considering. According to one statistic, a whopping one-third adults over the age of 65 fall each year.
When mobility is the problem, home modifications may help. Bathroom safety features—such as walk-in showers and grab bars—can greatly reduce falling risk.
Of course, older adults sometimes require significant assistance with the activities of daily life. Video calls allow you to see whether your loved one’s hygiene or self-care is deteriorating.
If what you see concerns you, it may be time to seek outside help. A video connection also allows you to talk honestly with your loved one, which may help you find the root of the problem.
Her mood isn’t quite what it used to be
It’s no secret that spending too much time alone can be a bad thing. And for older adults, social isolation is a real risk—with very real consequences. As just one example, the Government of Canada reports that socially-isolated seniors have a 4 to 5 times greater risk of hospitalization.
If your elderly loved one lives alone, you may be worried about her mental health. It makes sense. Talking to and seeing your loved one on a regular basis can help you see how she or he is really feeling. Your mother might dress up and put on a happy face for a doctor’s appointment, but that doesn’t mean she’s feeling cheery in her day-to-day life. Signs that point to loneliness or depression shouldn’t be ignored. In some cases, speaking with a social worker or counsellor may be appropriate.
The right app will also make it easy for you to contact those who provide your loved one’s care. When home care nurses or personal support workers are involved, reaching out can alert them to the issues that are bothering you. These professionals may also provide you with greater insight into the situation, or provide advice about how best to offer support.
Importantly, video calls can also lessen the burden of social isolation. Showing an elderly loved one how much you care can make all the difference. Video communication allows a grandmother to see how much her grandson has grown. It enables an elderly father to see the smiling face of his daughters—even if they live out of province.
Making Things Better
The right communication app provides you with a window into how your elderly loved one is really doing. It can give your father the at-home support he needs from health care professionals. It can even enable you to connect with those who provide his care—and help you lift his spirits when he needs it.
Thanks to advances in technology, connecting digitally doesn’t have to be complicated. If you think your loved one would benefit from additional support, look for an app that’s intuitive and easy to use. When connecting with you is as easy as tapping your picture on a tablet screen, your relative is far more likely to reach out.
Unfortunately, there comes a time for many seniors when living at home is no longer an option. Even the best digital app isn’t a replacement for round-the-clock care. If you have serious concerns about your elderly loved one, it’s important to seek professional help.
Feature image courtesy of Victor Camilo