In a third of all American homes, someone is providing care for a loved one. When a son or daughter is caring for an elderly parent, occasional help with some tasks can move rather quickly into regularly providing care for such essential daily activities as eating, bathing and dressing. The speed of the transition can sometimes be overwhelming for the person providing the care. It is important to recognize specific milestones that can mark the transition to full-time care, so that the caregiver is prepared and so that everyone involved can more easily recognize when help is needed.
Physical challenges are one such milestone. When a person is unable to walk without assistance, the need for full-time care quickly arises. Depending on the circumstances, it may not be safe for a particular caregiver to provide the lifting support necessary to help an older loved one in and out of chairs, automobiles and bed. Incontinence issues are another physical challenge that are often a tipping point for families to recognize that caregiving has become a full-time job and that help may be needed.
Behavioral and cognitive issues are another challenge that can quickly increase in significance. If an older loved one has symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, the assistance he or she needs may be minor at first, but may progress quickly. If an elderly parent becomes prone to wandering or exhibits the aggressive behavior sometimes found in Alzheimer’s patients, this can be a turning point in the need for full-time care.
The needs of each individual and the way that each family provides care depend on individual circumstances, but it is important to recognize when the need for a little help has become the need for full-time care.
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