Sometimes age sneaks up on everyone. Mom and dad may have seemed themselves last time you visited, whether a month—or even year—has passed. Physical and mental health decline often surprises family members, especially if aging parents seemed fine on the last visit. The key is to be aware of the small signs or problems that something may be wrong, so that your family has an inkling of health decline and can properly prepare for the future.
A Place for Mom expert and geriatric psychologist Dr. Melissa Henston provides some guidance on how to not only spot common problems, but tips on how to deal with any issues to get your elderly loved one the help they need.
How to Notice There’s A Problem With Your Aging Parents
Aging parents and their children are often in denial that there is a problem. “It’s often hard for parents to admit that they need help, and no one wants to lose their independence,” notes Henston. “But daily living tasks sometimes get to be too much as we age, and it’s important for family members and loved ones to step up and address the problem when this happens—even if it is painful. The problems will not go away and usually need to be addressed in a timely manner.”
The burden often falls on the family to recognize the signs that an aging parent might need help with daily living tasks. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your loved one has to go to assisted living or a nursing home, but they may need some extra help in their home environment. And if they’re not willing to admit it, there are signs that your elderly parent needs help.
According to Henston, you can spot problems the minute you drive up to your loved one’s house:
“There are a whole bunch of warning signs that are easy to spot. For example, the exterior of the house has peeling paint, or the driveway isn’t shoveled or the walkway isn’t treated. Once you enter the home, newspapers are still in plastic wrap and mail is piled up. Maybe the house isn’t as clean as normal or has an odor. You can usually tell when something is ‘off’.”
Since a health crisis in the elderly can escalate quickly and catch everyone involved off guard, it’s important to not ignore signs that something may be wrong. Ideally, families will have conversations with their children or loved ones about getting their affairs in order and end of life care well in advance of having any issues, but here are some signs to be cognizant of when visiting aging loved ones .
- House and yard need care / maintenance
- Disheveled clothing
- Broken appliances
- Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
- Spoiled / expired groceries that don’t get thrown away
- Poor personal hygiene
- Cluttered, dirty and/or disorganized house
- Depressed or low energy temperament
- Unexplained bruising
- Trouble getting up from a seated position
- Missing important appointments
- Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
- Poor diet or weight loss
- Late payment notices, bounced checks and calls from collections
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Forgetting to take medications
- Unexplained dents or scratches on car
If health or happiness seems to be compromised, it’s time to have a conversation and address problems, whether it’s finding in-home care, a retirement community or a senior living community. It’s important to find the right care options for each unique family situation.
Henston emphasizes the importance of noting anything out of character or outside of normal behavior as there are ways to improve quality of life if independent living in the family home is no longer working.
Reprinted from A Place for Mom.