The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies the unmet needs of seniors in the categories of physical, psychosocial and spiritual. As we age, we experience natural physical and cognitive decline, but seniors and those who care for them can struggle to track these changes and address them. This is often exacerbated by the desire of the senior to remain independent, as they can conceal the presence or extent of an ailment from family members and professional care providers. In case of seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the senior can often be unaware of unmet needs, or unable to express them.
Unmet needs can impede the ability of care providers (both paid and family) to manage chronic conditions, and intervene early on, avoiding negative physical and mental health implications.
This past year has seen the cost of care soar, increasing between 20%-40%. While home care agencies are maintaining profits because of the rise in cost, clients are opting for less care hours. Extended care hours have become an inaccessible luxury to most, and this will only further impede seniors from vocalizing unmet needs.
The holidays are a great opportunity to check in on aging loved ones, whether you get the chance to visit them in person, or even talk on the phone. Home care agencies can also empower family members with data and information to initiate important conversations to reassess care plans, and ensure that the needs of their loved one are met.
Here a few ways in which you can identify the needs of seniors over the holidays:
Home Safety Assessment
For families visiting an aging loved one over the holidays, this is a good time to make sure that their home is not only a warm, bright environment, but a safe one. Safety hazards such as slippery floors, throw rugs, and inaccessible showers can result in a trip to the ER. Agencies are a great resource for families when performing home safety assessments, and can even be proactive by sending out a home safety assessment checklist leading up to the holidays.
Bruises and Aches
Seniors often conceal emergencies such as falls from their loved ones. If your loved one is walking with more difficulty, or has an apparent bruise, it may be a sign that they have had a recent fall, and may need additional assistance. Agencies can support families by conveying similar observations from caregivers, or by providing data from Sensi that shows increasing difficulty in ambulation, instances of pain and physical distress, and fall occurrences.
Cognitive decline is at times harder to notice and address than physical ailments, as the stigmas and embarrassment attached to it prompt seniors to conceal the presence or extent of such decline. Unmet cognitive needs can be identified by paying attention to unusually forgetful behavior, challenges with language, and visuospatial clues such as difficulties around depth perception for walking up and down stairs, recognizing faces or objects and getting lost in familiar environments. Agencies can provide tips to families to identify cognitive decline, along with data gathered from the care environment, to ensure that their care plan is accurate and effective.
Sometimes, all it takes to identify the unmet needs of seniors is just to ask. A simple how are you doing, paired with an attentive ear can uncover key challenges they are facing, and important unmet care needs.
The holidays are a time to make happy memories with your loved ones, and to make seniors feel connected and supported. However, they are also a great opportunity for agencies and families to work together to ensure that the needs of the senior are met, through astute observations and frank conversations.