Age-related health changes are natural – hearing and eyesight start failing, joints become stiff, cognitive processing slows down, muscles lose mass and bones lose density.
Small changes may not affect your aging parents’ ability to live on their own but when combined, they can make it harder to clean the house, carry groceries or cook. Sometimes one major health issue can jeopardize independence. The onus is often on you to recognize when your parents need help.
The fix for a particular problem, such as failing eyesight or hearing, may be as simple as getting a new pair of eyeglasses or a hearing aid. In other cases, a combination of issues may make getting daily help necessary.
There are a number of companies, like Tandem Careplanning, that can assist with the best in-home care. Caregivers are carefully selected and will perform activities, such as assisting with medication, doing shopping, preparing meals and cleaning.
Red flags to look out for
Memory loss: Forgetting an appointment or where a car is parked every once in a while can happen to anyone. If the problem becomes chronic, it could indicate a cognitive decline.
Loose clothing: This could be a sign that a parent isn’t eating properly. You will need to establish whether this is due to a medical condition, not being able to shop for groceries or simply forgetting to eat.
Spoiled food in the fridge: This could indicate a problem with a sense of smell, a visual problem or mild cognitive impairment.
A car that’s dented or has missing side mirrors: Having trouble driving could simply be due to physical difficulties, such as turning the neck or it could be due to cognition.
Not wanting to travel: Your mom may tell you that she doesn’t drive at night anymore or go to church. She may not come to see you because driving is just too hard for her.
Withdrawal from activities: Withdrawal could be for various reasons, such as hearing difficulties or memory issues.
A dirty house: If the level of tidiness changes, it could be due to loss of physical strength, poor memory or poor vision.
Unkempt appearance: Poor hygiene is often a sign of cognitive problems. Parents may forget to comb their hair or wash. Looking unkempt can also be due to physical difficulties, such as battling to do up buttons etc.
Unexplained bruising: Bruising is usually a sign that a fall has taken place – this may be due to balance and mobility issues.
Unpaid bills: Loss of executive function from cognitive changes will limit the ability to function as an independent adult.
Not taking medication: If medication is not being taken, this could be due to memory problems.
When you recognize even one or two of the above symptoms, it is time to get help. Talking to parents about issues like bodily cleanliness may be very difficult but it is better to have those conversations on a regular basis than saving it all up for one serious conversation. Ask what you can do to help in the course of a normal conversation.
If more than one of the above red flags is evident, you need to think about getting daily help in the form of in-home care. If just about every red flag is evident, you need to take action sooner rather than later.
If you ignore the problem or you’re in denial because your parents insist that they’re fine, you could end up with a real crisis on your hands. Being proactive and facing the reality of the situation can help you to avoid an emergency situation.