Sure, you’d love to get a home health aide for your special senior. After all, you’re fully aware of the benefits of maintaining a healthy social circle, and would be relieved at the thought of having someone there when you can’t be. But surely nothing bad can happen to your loved one if they don’t have help at home, can it?
Actually, the answer may be a bit more worrisome than you think. Here are five things that can – and sometimes do – happen when homebound seniors need help at home, but don’t receive the assistance they need on a regular basis.
1. They’re at a higher risk for falls
Seniors who need assistance with walking, transferring (for example, from the chair to the bed), bathing, and more are at a higher risk for falls if they don’t have someone helping them. Trying to use the restroom at night is a common reason that seniors fall, which is heartbreaking when you consider that a few hours of overnight assistance could prevent it.
And unlike when we are younger, falls have much more dire consequences for the elderly. We’re not talking about just a few cuts and bruises – falls are one of the leading causes of emergency room visits for seniors. Many times, they also result in broken bones, which can permanently limit the victim’s mobility even after they recover.
2. Their condition can worsen
Many medical conditions are just difficult to manage alone, and seniors in this situation run the risk of a decline in overall health. For instance, if a senior can no longer adequately clean their house, they may run into serious infection control issues. They may also suffer the effects of a poor diet due to lack of transportation to the grocery store or the inability to cook own meals. Then there are the dire consequences of untreated chronic conditions like diabetes, including uncontrolled blood sugar, comas, and even foot amputation. Finally, not recognizing the signs of a heart attack or stroke (and having no one there to phone for help) can have devastating effects.
3. They may make a medication error
Medication errors are all-too-easy to make when you’re looking at a number of different prescriptions. Seniors with poor eyesight or the early stages of dementia can become confused between different pills that are of similar sizes, shapes, and colors. They might take the wrong pill, take too many or too few, or not take them at the scheduled time. They may even forget to take them entirely, or take them in the wrong combinations (either with other pills or foods that don’t mix). For example, grapefruit affects some cholesterol-lowering agents, and the latter may come with a warning on the bottle not to ingest both at the same time.
Medication errors like this can leave a senior’s condition untreated, or treated incorrectly. The result is that they make become ill, and in worst-case scenarios, the consequences can be fatal.
4. They’re at risk for wandering
Alzheimer’s and other patients with dementia-related conditions may be prone to wandering, especially in the later stages of the disease. Without constant supervision, they can easily step into traffic, be left unprotected in extreme weather, or go hours or days without their medications.
5. They’re easy prey for scam artists
Scam artist and tricksters often prey on the elderly who live alone. Without someone to notice their suspicious behavior (such as claiming to be from a bogus charity or utility company), fraudsters can easily swindle seniors out of their money, homes, and insurance or medical benefits.
Don’t wait to get your senior help at home
While there’s no need to panic (not every scenario above may be the case for your senior), it’s strongly recommended that you look into getting seniors help at home if they need it.
Discuss the need for services with your senior’s physician, case manager, or home health agency. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll sleep soundly knowing you’re doing everything possible to keep your loved one safe.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff — including Home Care Aides — at the Institute of Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.