Identifying the needs of older people can be difficult, especially if you work with older people or are simply trying to help parents or other family members.

Your parents will often assure you that everything is fine because they don’t want you to worry about them. The truth is, they may not want your help and really feel like they don’t need it.

You are in a difficult situation because you do not want to meddle in your affairs, but you are beginning to realize that you may need help. Here are some tips to help you assess the situation objectively:

# 1 When you enter the house, what is your first reaction? Does the house seem too hot or cold? Are the rooms too stuffy or dark? Are window blinds and curtains drawn at noon for no apparent reason?

# 2 Is there an odor in the home? The elderly often have urinary problems and they could have stained their clothes or even dripped on the bathroom floor. Due to loss of vision and sensory perceptions, they may not be aware of the problem themselves.

# 3 How is the kitchen, do they wash the dishes? Now, let’s get real here; If you come to my house unannounced, you may find dirty dishes or some housework left undone. However, when they start to accumulate, it could be a problem. Look at the unwashed dishes; Is there dry food in them? Is there food left on the counter from the last meal?

# 4 Look at the refrigerator. Are leftovers stored without a lid? Are the fruits and vegetables wilted or in bad condition? Check if the seasonings are stored properly and are not too old to use.

# 5 If possible, check medicine cabinets or medicine drawers. Check dates to determine if drug prescriptions are being filled correctly and taken as prescribed. You may need to contact your doctor or pharmacist.

# 6 Is the trash emptied or are all the bins overflowing? Are the tables and chairs cluttered with papers, mail, and magazines?

# 7 When visiting a parent or loved one who doesn’t visit often, learn to focus on behavior changes or household chores. Do you see signs of further neglect in any of the above areas? What has changed since your last visit?

# 8 If you are concerned about whether or not mail is being handled properly and bills are paid on time, you may need to contact the utility companies to make sure they are up to date.

Recognizing the need for help is a start. Once you know what the real needs are, you can seek help to meet those needs. It’s good to have a small notebook to list the changes you notice.

Today we are fortunate to have access to many agencies that work with older people. Knowing the scope of your situation is essential to ensure an adequate answer to our questions when we seek advice.

Whether the elderly are family members or friends and neighbors, please respect their privacy and honor their wishes as much as possible. At the same time, do your best to properly assess the situation so that you can get the help they need.

By taking the time to examine your entire home and personal needs objectively, you can determine whether the need can be met with part-time help or not. If the situation calls for more drastic measures, you will be prepared to help meet that need.

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