If you’re going home for the holidays, you may not have seen your aging parent in months. You may have kept up by phone, but bear in mind that many elderly people tend to minimize their difficulties or are embarrassed to admit to them. When asking how your parent is doing, he or she may tell you “OK” when things are not really OK.
When you’re with your parent, you’ll need to be on the alert for signs that he or she needs help. Here are some important ones.
Is your parent reluctant to take part in activities that require moving around or no longer taking walks or getting other exercise? Are there signs of pain when getting up from a seat?
Does your parent seem unbalanced when walking? The elderly are often prone to falling. That can mean broken bones or head injuries. Any difficulty climbing stairs? This presents the same problems as with balance.
Eating too much or too little can lead to significant changes in weight. Either putting on a lot of weight or getting too thin may be a reason to see a doctor.
Changes in Self Care
Most people have built up some pretty good self-care habits. Are there signs that your parent is “slipping?”
It’s a warning sign if an elderly person is neglecting personal hygiene, such as hair care, bathing, or dental care. Many elderly people wear dentures. Are the dentures used as the dentist instructed and cleaned and worn daily? If your parent uses a hearing aid, are the batteries renewed as needed? If there seems to be more hearing loss, it may be time for another hearing test.
A person who isn’t practicing good self-care may avoid checkups with the doctor, dentist, or eye doctor. Dental problems can lead to other medical conditions. Not having the right eyeglasses can lead to falls and other injuries. Be concerned if your parent is skipping medication or refusing to see a doctor in spite of an injury or illness. Just wearing the wrong clothes for the weather can mean a decline in self-care.
Some folks have never been great housekeepers, but your parent has probably managed well enough. You want to spot any significant departures from his or her usual habits.
Is the garbage piling up? Is there laundry lying around undone? Is there spoiled food left in the refrigerator? Neglected housekeeping may also mean a home cluttered with hoarded junk or mail piling up unopened.
Changes in Money Handling
We all forget to pay bills sometimes. But, does your parent consistently forget? Are the bills piling up? Take notice if your parent is spending money in uncharacteristic ways. Are there suddenly things in the house that just don’t fit your parent’s habits or tastes? Is your parent giving money away to strangers? Scams seem to be everywhere these days. And scam artists frequently target elderly people, believing them to be trusting and eager for attention. There are plenty of fake charities around too. Is your parent suddenly enthusiastic about some person or organization that he or she has never mentioned before?
Mental and Emotional Changes
Depression is common in elderly people, but may not be apparent over the phone. It’s important to take notice of the person’s general or usual mood. Does your parent seem confused when trying to follow a book or a conversation?
We all forget sometimes, but does your parent show unusual forgetfulness? Does he or she forget the names of loved ones or old friends? Does your parent leave objects, such as keys, in illogical places? Does your parent forget the way to familiar places or get lost in the neighborhood or the supermarket? Has he or she left the stove on without paying attention to it?
Does your formerly calm and reasonable parent have flashes of unreasonable anger or belligerence? Anger and aggression can be signs of mental decline. Any of these changes can be early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Time to move?
Your parent may merely not be as strong and agile as when young. In that case, you can solve problems by arranging help with cleaning, cooking, laundry, and other chores. But, hard as it can be to face, a parent’s having a number of problems can mean he or she needs new living arrangements.
Independent living communities give the elderly as much independence as possible, but also provide medical and personal help when needed plus entertainment and social activities.
Look into assisted living if your parent needs much more than occasional help. These communities are not necessarily assisted living homes. Homes are residences for elderly people who need constant help with meals, housekeeping, and medical and personal care. If one of these is not appropriate, your parent may want to move into an assisted living apartment.
We Can Help
Townhall Place, in West Bloomfield Township, MI, is an assisted living community that offers assisted living apartments with a choice of three-floor plans. We provide help with transportation, housekeeping. laundry and medication, with certified staff on duty at all times. Our residents can live life their own way while being assured that help is always there when needed.