Know what you’re dealing with. Hire a professional to assess your spouse’s current condition and future prospects.
Depending on the nature of the condition, your spouse may have trouble getting around the house, driving, or remembering the things they used to. Your first step: Get a professional assessment of their cognitive and physical abilities.
An assessment can help your spouse live at home longer. It can also prevent accidents and produce a longer and high quality life. It's never easy to recognize when a family member needs help. Learning how to assess their needs will make it easier to help.
Assessments should focus on the following areas:
- Physical Health. Does your spouse have chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, or emphysema. What other diseases have they had: bowel or bladder problems, heart disease, stroke, or cancer? How is their vision or hearing? Have they had excessive weight loss or gain or trouble walking? List all of the person’s health professionals, as well as recent hospitalizations.
- Mental Health. Has your loved one been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety or psychosis? With Alzheimer's or another form of dementia? Is he or she getting confused, disoriented, or socially isolated? Suffer from mood swings or forgetfulness?
- Medication Use. What medications is the person taking, their dosages, and how often. Include over the counter medications and supplements. Do they have trouble taking medication as directed?
- Daily Living Skills. If your spouse is having problems dressing, bathing, getting up from a chair, using a toilet, climbing stairs, or using the phone, consider ways to make the home safer. If that’s not feasible, consider bringing in outside help. Other issues to consider: handling of emergencies, cooking, shopping, and driving.
- Home and Community Safety. Do you live in a safe neighborhood? Does the home have smoke alarms? Can your spouse hear them? Is the individual susceptible to telephone and door-to-door fraud? Able to do home indoor and outdoor home maintenance?
- Support Systems. Friends, family, and activity are crucial. Does your spouse have frequent visitors and friends? Does he or she go to a Senior Center and get out socially? Do other family members live close by? Can you quickly contact key friends and family members in cases of emergency?
- Interests/Lifestyles. Does your spouse still enjoy hobbies, stay engaged with current events, go to movies or church?
The above items will help you think broadly about your loved one’s needs. However, you may want to consider hiring a professional to conduct a more rigorous assessment. Get referrals from your healthcare professional, local senior center, hospital, or agency on aging.