Signs Your Parent
Signs Your Parent Needs Care
One of the more difficult decisions one can make as an adult is figuring out whether a parent should move into an assisted living or memory care community. Ideally, your parent would spend their later years in the comfort of their own home, but this isn’t always possible. In fact, seniors are often healthier and happier in assisted living, where they can get personalized care and remain active and social with other people their age. And for residents with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it may be a great benefit to their cognitive function to have them under the care of experienced, compassionate caregivers like those at Aegis Living.
When your parent gets older, and their independence becomes limited, it’s important to pay attention. Adult children may tend to overlook the signs of mental and physical decline. After all, everyone wants their parent to be independent for as long as possible, and the signs can be hidden. Keep an eye out for these indications that your parent may need assistance or long-term care:
1. Struggles with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
Difficulty with Mobility
Falls are the leading cause of emergency room visits in the United States for individuals over the age of 65. Falls can cause many problems, including fractured bones, lacerations, and even death. As your parent ages, many factors can contribute to their fall risk. Common sensory disorders, such as vision and hearing deficits, can affect safety and balance. Drug interactions can result in problems like high blood pressure fluctuations, confusion, and shortness of breath. Other significant risks include musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis pain, numbness in feet, decreased muscle strength, and gait abnormalities.
Malnutrition is a real concern among the elderly living home alone. A lack of proper nutrition can cause weakened immune systems, lack of energy, and chronic health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, dehydration, and osteoporosis. Seniors who no longer drive may find it challenging to get to the store and carry groceries home, which can influence their purchases. They may opt for processed frozen meals loaded with calories and sodium and skip fresh produce and meats that require more prep and cooking. Some may hate the effort of cooking for one. Many seniors experience a loss of appetite due to a decreased sense of smell and taste and are prone to over-salt foods or reach for sugary snacks. And because seniors are less active, they require fewer calories. Making it even more important that what they are eating is nutrient-packed.
2.Changes in Physical Appearance
Dramatic Weight Fluctuation
Nutrition and diet can become major concerns among the elderly, particularly those with dementia. If you notice extreme weight loss in your parent, it may be a sign they are not eating enough. You should also keep an eye out for large amounts of uneaten or spoiled food in the refrigerator and pantry. Often, malnutrition and weight loss in seniors with dementia is a result of them forgetting to eat.
Declining Personal Hygiene
An elderly loved one’s appearance can deteriorate suddenly or gradually over time and warrants concern by family and friends. Poor hygiene is not a matter of fashion or taste; it’s a health concern. A disheveled appearance, unkempt clothing, or inappropriate clothing for weather conditions may be the signs of greater issues. Poor personal hygiene can be an indicator of depression due to the loss of a loved one, loneliness, or deteriorating health. Depression is more common among the elderly than younger adults, and poor hygiene is often an outward sign. Dementia can also leave a person without a clear concept of good personal hygiene. Your loved one may simply forget to comb their hair, use deodorant, wash their hands, or brush their teeth.
For an elderly person to maintain proper hygiene, they need to be able to bathe themselves regularly. Daily hygiene, such as bathing, can be limited by their physical impairments. Lack of bathing may be a consequence of crippling arthritis, paralysis, limited mobility, and nerve damage. They may find it difficult to bathe due to age-related changes in their physical strength, flexibility, and coordination. Or the side effects of medication can leave them feeling drowsy, unsteady, or unwell, so they cannot bathe as they usually would.
3. Changes in Your Parent's Behaviors
Loneliness and Seclusion
No parent wants to be a burden to their adult children. They will try to maintain a semblance of independence as long as they can but living at home alone can lead to feelings of isolation. Feelings of loneliness impact a senior’s ability to thrive and contribute to a number of health-related issues, including increased risk of mortality, depression, and high blood pressure. Loneliness can also be a precursor to Alzheimer’s. If your parent is withdrawing and secluding themselves at home, then you may want to assess their current living situation.
Loss of Interest in Activities
Take notice of your parent’s social and extracurricular activities. Has your parent abandoned their favorite hobby, stopped going to church, no longer involved in charity work, or skips bridge club? Loss of interest in activities that your parent once found pleasurable can be a sign of depression, fatigue, or possibly even dementia.
Attention to Finances
Although finances can be a touchy subject for some, discussing them with your parent is essential for their future. If you notice that your parent’s decision-making skills are slowing due to age or health-related issues, you may need to step in and offer financial guidance and support. If your parent is in the beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, providing financial assistance is a must, as the disease can result in a myriad of poor financial planning decisions, such as forgetting to pay monthly bills or making irresponsible and irrational purchases.
Is your parent able to track a conversation? Do they actively take part in a discussion? Do you find yourself repeating parts of a conversation often? If your parent or loved one has hearing loss, they may choose to isolate themselves from family and friends because they are embarrassed. They may try to hide their hearing loss by withdrawing from activities and social events. They may avoid using a hearing aid because it makes them feel old. Hearing loss can lead to depression and loneliness if left untreated.
A ‘senior moment’ is to be expected with age. We have all forgotten where our keys are, or maybe why we’ve walked into a room. This type of modest memory problem is relatively common as we age. Forgetful moments are not a cause for concern. But if memory loss affects everyday tasks, like driving, shopping, and paying bills, then it needs to be checked. Are they asking the same questions repeatedly? Can they follow directions? Do they remember to take their medications as prescribed? Keep an eye out for these red flags.
Getting lost or wandering from their home is not normal behavior with age. If your parent has gotten lost on a familiar route to church or has become frightened after being disoriented in their neighborhood, you need to consult their physician. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 60 percent of people with dementia will wander. This behavior is caused largely by memory issues and disorientation, as seniors may forget their addresses or feel lost in even the most familiar settings. One danger of wandering is that seniors can become lost, but it can also lead to falls and injuries that can be detrimental to one’s health.
4. Physical Cues at Your Parent’s Home
Physical Cluttered, Dirty, or Disorganized Home at Your Parent’s Home
As you are looking for signs if your parent needs assistance, assess their home. When visiting their home, look at each room to determine how clean and organized each appears. Make sure they are removing their garbage, cleaning their dishes, doing their laundry, caring for their pets, and keeping the floors clear of clutter. Take note of any unusual odors, stains, or damage. Also, look outside. Is their lawn overgrown and the garden not maintained? These can be signs that their home, for whatever reason, is too overwhelming for them.
Are your parent’s appliances in good working order? Are they in disrepair due to misuse or neglect? Is a large broken appliance causing them hardship? For example, the water heater is broken, so they are not bathing. In their home, verify that all large appliances are functioning and check smaller items like dead batteries and burnt-out lightbulbs, which can be a fall risk. A house requires ongoing maintenance that entails strength, energy, and effort, which your parent may not have. Again, things break in the home, which is expected. But if these repairs are being overlooked, not addressed, and accumulating, this may be a sign of a more significant issue.
Unexplained Dents or Scratches Their Car
One of the more difficult discussions to have with your parent is when to remove their car keys. Your parent wants to be independent, but if you are noticing damage to their car that cannot be explained, then it might be time to assess their ability to drive. You don’t want them to get into an accident and harm themselves or someone else. Make a routine check of their car exterior and note any damage.
Unopened Mail or Unpaid Bills
Are sealed letters piling up on their countertop or never removed from the mailbox? They have always paid their bills, managed a home, and opened their mail. But with age, these simple tasks may no longer be so easy. Physically being able to walk out to the mailbox and back may be too much for some seniors. They may be experiencing lapses in memory, so they forget to pick up the mail or pay a bill. Your parent may be overwhelmed by all the tasks associated with house management that they fall behind.
Little-to-No Food in the House
Check your loved one’s refrigerator, pantry, and cupboards for food. Is there enough food in the house for them to prepare multiple meals per day? Is food spoiled or past the expiration date? Do they have fresh fruits, a variety of vegetables, and lean protein for nutrition? Are their pots heavily scorched on the bottom because they leave food to burn on the stove? Are their garbage cans overflowing? Your parent’s ability to cook, pick up groceries, make meals for themselves, and clean their kitchen is critical to continue living on their own.
If your parent’s health or personal happiness seems to be compromised, it’s time to discuss their living situation and options for care. Depending on their needs, the possibilities could be moving in with you or another family member, finding a senior housing or assisted living community, moving them into a memory care community, or arranging in-home care. These decisions are never easy but delaying a decision can affect your loved one’s quality of life.
If you notice any of these signs, make it your family’s priority to get your parent the care and help that they need. Contact your local Aegis Living community to arrange a tour, meet our residents and staff, and stay for a meal. We look forward to answering your questions and making your parent feel at home!
Additional Resources: Lake Union (Seattle)
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