But the fact is, sometimes signs of aging are indications that a loved one’s health and lifestyle is at stake. The small things early on can add up to larger challenges later.
When is it time to sit down and have a conversation with a parent about getting more help at home? Unfortunately, there’s no right answer to this question. However, there are some key indicators that a loved one is not aging in a healthy way and may need assistance with managing daily tasks.
Here are 10 signs that your parent or loved one may need help at home, whether assistance with managing daily tasks or more advanced care.
We all have moments where we forget where we put the car keys or can’t remember a phone number. But when forgetfulness becomes an obvious pattern and a parent seems to increasingly report, “I don’t remember,” or, “I’m not sure what happened to that,” then it’s time to take a closer look at the symptoms.
It’s time to seek help when tasks that are familiar to your loved one become challenging, or when a parent seems to struggle to complete a task that he or she has always done. Confusion can indicate that an unreported seizure took place, or possible dementia.
Not bathing for a day or two is one thing, but skipping a week (or more) without noticing is a concern. Personal grooming activities, from brushing hair and teeth to trimming nails, can become a daily challenge for aging loved ones. If there is a noticeable decline in grooming, there are home supports to assist.
Texas researchers studied 538 seniors suffering from self-neglect and published their findings in the American Journal of Public Health. They found that 60 percent of them showed abnormal results in tests for cognitive and executive function, while more than 75 percent struggled with daily activities, from grooming to paying bills.
Significant weight loss or gain is always cause for concern. Preparing a healthy meal is not an easy feat for many who have difficulty shopping, deciding what to prepare, and then actually cooking. Even if that means microwaving a meal, the steps involved can feel overwhelming.
Any changes in eating habits, including disinterest in food or an empty fridge, can be a sign that help is needed. Proper nutrition is critical to preserving one’s health.
Our loved ones might not notice that the carpet hasn’t been vacuumed in months, the beds are never made and the bathrooms need cleaning because they live in the environment. But they don’t see what you do when you visit.
If you notice clutter piling up, especially bills, it’s time to get help at home so the living space can be tidy, organized and clean. This can have significant impacts on both mental and physical health.
Speaking of bills, the task of paying for utilities or other bills might become too stressful for an aging parent, especially if they’re on a fixed income. Neglecting bills will inevitably result in phone calls from collectors, compounding the stress and causing confusion. In worst-case scenarios, utilities can get shut off and a loved one might not understand why.
Walking, balance and mobility are a chief safety concern in the aging population. A fall can trigger a cascade of health issues. There are supports to help make home more safe, and it’s important to recognize when our older loved ones need extra help to take a shower, use the bathroom or get from one place to another.
One out of three older adults (65+) falls each year, but only half talk about it with a healthcare provider, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. A study done by the Centers for Disease Control showed that nearly 23,000 older adults died in 2011 from unintended falls. Look for the signs of mobility problems, and talk to your parent about the importance of sharing with you when he or she falls or begins having trouble with balance or walking.
Mom and Dad may not want to share that they fell the other night. It’s embarrassing when we can’t move around like we once could. Do you notice bruises or compromised movement? These are signs that an older family member could need supports in place at home, which may include equipment to assist with mobility or even physical or occupational therapy to help build stamina and/or skills to better manage the necessary activities of daily living.
Is Mom acting distant? Is Dad inexplicably gruff or depressed? Apathy and mood changes can be early signs of dementia. You may even notice a shift in personality from introvert to extrovert because judgment is impaired.
The good news is that a wide variety of ways exist to sharpen the mind and even prevent dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It’s critical that your parent engages in the following activities on a regular basis:
The importance of lifelong learning, regular exercise, social activities and nutrition cannot be emphasized enough. It’s critical that we encourage our parents to engage in these activities regularly. If they don’t, they’ll need help at home much sooner than they otherwise might have.
When a loved one stops showing interest in hobbies that were once enjoyable, this is a possible sign of depression, and it’s not uncommon in aging adults. Illness, chronic pain and physical disability can trigger depression. Getting old isn’t easy, and once-active adults can feel down when they have trouble participating in favored activities. Late-life depression affects 6 million adults age 65 and older, and only about 10 percent receive treatment. This National Institute of Mental Health study shows depression in seniors to be a major problem. Subtle signs, such as unexplained fatigue, can be a sign of a deeper issue.
The little things add up. It’s crucial that we as adult children learn to look for these signs recognize the fact that it may time for our parents to get some help at home. By spending more time with them and examining their behavior, we can tease out potential issues that could cause their health to deteriorate faster.
The older our parents get, the more difficult a time they’ll likely have engaging in regular activities and accomplishing daily tasks. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our older loved ones can live healthy, fulfilling lives at home, even when mobility becomes limited and mental capacity diminishes. It’s important to examine all your options, even if the parent isn’t ready to leave hearth and home just yet.
Learn more about how to help your aging parents at home and what resources are available through Judson at Home.