When an aging loved one lives a distance away, it is not always easy to ensure they are doing well. Often, most contact with them is probably through phone calls, texts, and emails, which makes it easy to miss the signs that they may be struggling. When visiting an aging loved one for the holidays, this is a perfect time to take a look at how they are doing.
Signs to Watch for in An Aging Loved One:
Take a moment to notice their weight. Does it look as if they have lost weight? Weight loss may mean nothing (maybe they were even trying to take off a few pounds). However, this may be a sign of a physical or medical condition, such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, diabetes, or cancer. Weight loss can also be a symptom of depression or mental illness.
According to the National Institutes of Health, some medications, such as cardiac medications and antibiotics, or even the aging process, can change the taste of food, which can cause weight loss because of eating less.
With aging, it often becomes more challenging to get around. Energy levels also tend to drop, which can make shopping for food or even preparing or cleaning up a challenge. When seniors do not feel comfortable driving, they might put off going to the grocery store. If an aging loved one is alone, they might be finding it a challenge to cook for just one – especially if the loss of their partner is recent.
Mobility and Balance
Observe how an elderly loved one moves around. Do they seem to have trouble walking? Are they frequently reaching for support? Do they look as if they are in pain when they walk or get out of a chair? These could be signs of muscle, joint, or neurological issues, which are treatable.
Treatment can help relieve the pain and improve an aging loved one’s quality of life. It could also prevent a fall. A fall can cause injury and additional issues such as limiting activity, increasing the fear of falling, and the loss of mobility, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Often, fall risks are found in unexpected places in the home.
Are there any noticeable changes in an aging loved one’s behavior? Have they lost interest in their hobbies? Do they seem to be withdrawing from social activities they once enjoyed? Do they seem to be confused or agitated? Have you noticed a change in their sleeping pattern?
Any of these could be signs of depression, dementia, hearing loss, or any number of other severe conditions. It could also be something as simple as a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is common in older adults. Fortunately, UTIs can be treated with antibiotics and steps taken to prevent reoccurrence.
Condition of Home and Self
If an aging loved one has always been a stickler for a clean home, and now there is noticeable dirt, it may be an indication of a problem. If they always looked completely put together, and now notice stains on their clothing or messed hair, that could also be an indication that they need some help.
Aging adults can be very good at hiding issues. For example, they may clean up if they know the family is coming for a visit. Therefore it may be necessary to conduct a search for clues that indicate a problem. Look for unpaid bills, piles of unopened mail, overflowing hampers, or expired food. Scorched cookware could be a sign that they are forgetting food on the stove.
Most older adults are on at least one type of medication. Ask what medication their physicians have prescribed and if they are taking them regularly. Look around the house for expired or unused bottles of prescription medicines. Watch to make sure that they are taking their meds properly and consistently
Medication mistakes are the most common patient safety error. Unintentional medication discrepancies that happen during a transition of care (such as a hospitalization and the subsequent discharge) are widespread.
Once Determined Something Is Off, What Should Be Done?
Best to be proactive to avoid more severe problems down the road. Being proactive also helps ensure that an aging loved one is safe and enjoys the highest quality of life possible. Understanding what to look for that may indicate a care need. Watch this video: Warning Signs That Help At Home Is Needed.
If any of these signs are observed while visiting, talk to them about these concerns. Of course, this is not always easy. Many older adults will fight any type of what they perceive as interference. Try to convince them that even a small change – such as someone coming in to do the house cleaning or cooking for them – could help provide peace of mind, keep them safe, and allow them to stay in their home. One of the most challenging experiences for an adult child is watching aging parents decline without accepting assistance. Read more about What To Do When An Aging Parent Is Resistant To Care.
While visiting, this may be a good time to schedule an appointment with their physician for both a health assessment and a chance to discuss any of these concerns. A meeting with an elder law attorney can help ensure that all of an aging loved one’s legal documents are in order.
Before leaving, look for people who can help keep an eye on an aging loved one when their family can not be there. Talk to neighbors and friends and make sure they have updated contact information in case of an emergency.
Consider Home Care
Another option is to contact a professional agency such as Hibernian Home Care. Our company works with adult children who are caring for their aging parents and forms a partnership. Our team understands that the process of convincing seniors to accept care and we specialize in working with the elderly who are resistant to receiving help.
If you think your aging loved one could use a little help, give us a call at 732-481-1148 or use this Contact Us form. We would be happy to meet with you before you head home to discuss how we can help your aging loved one maintain their independence and stay safe in their own home.