You might remember your wedding vows like they were uttered only yesterday, but nothing can really prepare you for the work it takes to uphold those vows as you both age and decline. No matter what your former years held, you’ll wrestle with how to love and cherish your partner in sickness and in health during the next leg of your life together.
Getting extra help to support your aging spouse is a difficult task, especially if you’ve previously managed their care. Home care, independent living, assisted living, and nursing homes all offer support for aging seniors. If you aren’t sure whether or not it’s time to find support for your aging partner, the following ten signs may be the push you need to find extra help for your partner.
Sign #1: Your partner’s hygiene has recently declined.
Hygiene is a basic activity for daily living that quickly falls to the side when your loved one’s health declines. If your partner is having trouble cleaning themselves, it may be time to find some more in-home support.
While you can certainly do this yourself, the daily work of caring for another person’s hygiene needs can be stressful. This is compounded when you are also aging. If your loved one doesn’t otherwise need medical care, in-home support for daily hygiene activities may be a worthy investment.
Sign #2: Your partner has lost a lot of weight.
Weight loss is common for aging seniors for a variety of reasons. Your spouse may have less interest in food due to decreased sense of taste or difficulty chewing and swallowing. In some cases, medication and forgetfulness may contribute to your partner’s weight loss.
If your loved one is losing weight, you may need extra help to make sure their nutritional needs are being met. While our Healthy Eating Tips for Seniors article provides guidelines for you and your spouse, in-home care may be necessary to help your spouse maintain a healthy weight.
Sign #3: Your partner is having more trouble getting around.
Navigating mobility issues on your own is difficult. Whether your partner is struggling to get up after sitting down or barely making it on their walks between rooms, it might be time to get extra support. Since a single fall can lead to a whole host of medical problems, it’s important to stay on top of any mobility issues.
Mobility issues can have several different causes: arthritic pain, loss of strength, or numbness caused by other medical conditions. When determining whether or not you need extra care, you should seriously evaluate your own physical strength. If you cannot lift or support your partner’s weight, you may need extra care.
The level of care will depend largely upon the extent of your partner’s difficulties. If they only need occasional help getting up, you may be able to manage things on your own. If they’re unable to get around unassisted, you may need either in-home or around-the-clock nursing care.
Sign #4: Your partner is showing signs of hearing loss.
Medical science proves that hearing loss is not an isolated symptom of aging. Instead, it can cause many other problems, such as social isolation, depression, and even trouble remembering. Getting the right hearing aids can help your spouse navigate hearing loss.
However, profound hearing loss can create more problems. Your partner may be at increased risk of injury if they’re unable to hear what’s happening around them. While hearing loss alone isn’t a reason to get more assistance, it may be cause for a conversation with your spouse’s doctor about long-term care and treatment.
Sign #5: Your partner’s forgetfulness is causing more problems at home.
Although forgetfulness is a normal part of the aging process, it can cause serious problems at home. Your partner may forget what they’re doing and become stressed, leading to further confusion or even injury.
For example, your partner might forget to take their medication. While you can take over their medication management, they may forget that you’ve administered meds and take an additional dose on their own.
As forgetfulness gets worse, especially if your partner is diagnosed with dementia, it may be necessary to get more care. For early dementia patients, in-home care can be a lifeline. As your partner’s condition worsens, though, you may need to make the difficult choice to find a skilled nursing facility for them.
Sign #6: Your partner doesn’t remember who you are anymore.
No one wants to think about their partner forgetting about them. Although this scenario has been glamorized in movies like The Notebook, the truth of advanced dementia seems impossible for most couples to navigate.
Early signs of confusion may include things like forgetting the names of children or grandchildren. As your partner’s confusion advances, they may forget who you are or how they’re related to you.
We recently talked to a man who knew it was time to get care for his wife when she wandered off. She was visiting her son when he ran into the store to grab something before getting back in the truck with her. Once her son was out of the car, she ran off because she couldn’t remember who that man was and why she was in his truck. After she was finally relocated (thankfully unharmed), her family knew it was time to arrange for long-term care.
Sign #7: Your partner cannot keep themselves safe.
If your spouse cannot manage their daily tasks without risk of injury, it may be time to look into extra care. For example, if your spouse frequently hurts themselves while cooking, you may need to make the difficult decision to limit their access to the kitchen.
This can be exceptionally difficult for fiercely independent people. While your spouse may struggle to accept help, their safety is of the utmost importance. Whether they’re injuring themselves, wandering away, or falling, your increasingly frail partner may need the extra support.
Even if you are still physically able to take care of most of their needs, in-home care can provide you with the respite you need. Taking care of yourself may feel like a selfish act, but it’s vital for caretakers to make sure they have time to care for themselves. If you can no longer manage your partner’s care, even with in-home assistance, it may be time to look at assisted living and nursing home care.
Sign #8: Your partner needs around-the-clock medical care (that doesn’t require hospitalization).
Sometimes you need the extra medical support to care for your aging partner’s medical needs. While hospitalization is necessary for extreme conditions, your partner may need non-emergency medical care to manage their diet, medication, and personal safety.
Nursing care can feel like a huge leap, especially if you don’t have any skilled care already in place. However, it may be a necessary part of caring for your spouse as they age. Nursing care facilities offer around-the-clock medical care to help support your spouse’s ever-increasing care needs.
Sign #9: Your spouse is becoming aggressive toward you or others.
Dementia has many unfortunate side effects. When your loved one has both forgetfulness and confusion, they may also become aggressive. Even if your partner was gentile throughout your marriage, their dementia might cause them to show aggressive behavior toward you and others in your household.
There’s no arguing that this is one of the most heartbreaking traits that far too many people with dementia exhibit. Even if you don’t fear for your personal safety, increased aggression can add to your overall stress. You don’t want to put your spouse into a care facility for your own safety, but it may be necessary to ensure both partners have the safe living space they need.
We recently talked to a woman whose step-dad was just placed in a nursing facility because of his aggression. He’d been showing aggressive tendencies for years, even at the earliest stages of dementia. However, his increased hostility and confusion have made it nearly impossible for his wife to care for him. Although she still visits him regularly, it was incredibly difficult for her to put her husband of thirty years into a nursing home.
Sign #10: You’re stressed by the burden of caring for your partner.
It’s okay to get extra help for your spouse if the burden of their care is making it more difficult for you to tackle your own needs. Many caregivers forget about their own needs, especially when their days are consumed with care for their ailing loved ones.
Long-term neglect of your own needs can cause frustration, exhaustion, and even medical problems. If you aren’t ready for your spouse to move into a nursing facility, in-home or respite care may provide you with the additional support you need to navigate your partner’s care.