HOLIDAY times are often when families from near and far get together for celebration. What these gatherings look like may change as family members age and family dynamics change. For many families winter holidays may be the one time of the year when they visit with their aging parents for a longer period of time. It’s important as loved ones age to use this time to gain a perspective into what their day to day life might look like.
Often when visiting aging loved ones we bring them on outings, or we’ll visit for short periods and only spend time in one room. It’s not until you spend an extended period of time and explore other rooms that you may see the early warning signs that they’re not doing well at their current house and might need more help.
Some early warning signs to watch out for that could indicate that your aging parent might not be coping are:
1- Housework is neglected: It could be obvious such as newspapers stacked in the living room or it could be less obvious such as dirty bathrooms and unchanged sheets. Neglecting housework could be a sign of physical decline and mental decline. It can be extremely unhygienic and increase the risk of illness.
2- Personal hygiene is neglected: Things such as wearing the same clothing for several days, infrequent bathing, not shaving and not brushing teeth. These can all be warning signs for cognitive decline or depression.
3- Medication mismanagement: Things to observe would be blister packs with random days used and others unopened or full blister packs or pill bottles. Managing medication can be difficult especially when taking several medications, several times a day. If you’re noticing your aging parent is not able to manage the medication on their own this can be extremely dangerous.
4- Unused upper or lower levels: If the aging parent is living in a multi level house, check if the upstairs and downstairs are being used. Some other signs to look out for are sleeping on the couch or chair. If they’re using any type of assisted device such as a walker or cane, ask them how they use the stairs. Not being able to use the stairs safely can be a major fall risk, especially if they live alone.
5- Have not left the house in a long time: Social isolation is common in older adults, it is important to ask your aging parent if they have visited with friends or recently been on any outings. Social isolation can result in many other health conditions and can result in rapid health decline. Even quick visits from family can help decrease social isolation.
6- Empty fridge and cupboard: Look for an empty fridge, expired food and the amount of fresh food. Empty cupboards and fridges could indicate a lack of proper nutrition, as well if the majority of food is frozen, processed or non-perishable. This could indicate they’re unable to get access to proper nutrition due to lack of transportation. Or it could indicate a lack of appetite which could be linked to depression or cognitive decline, or an unwillingness to get groceries as it’s too much for them.
When visiting with your aging parent(s), if you’re noticing any of these warning signs it’s important to have a conversation with them and not just ignore it. All of these warning signs alone and in combination can be a sign that they’re not able to cope at home anymore.
Whether they are in denial about it or seeking assistance a Senior Housing Counselor can help. They can facilitate that conversation between you and your aging parent and help guide the conversation about what life might be like if they were to live at a Retirement Home or Assisted Living. They can also help educate about what aging at home can look like and help get resources in place to ensure your parents are safe and better suited staying at home, such as home care, companionship and cleaning services.
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1 – Rapid Resources & Referrals.
2 – In Person Visits (Zoom calls or phone chats right now unfortunately as we all socially distance).
3 – Arrange and Escort on Tours (again, we can provide virtual tours and presentations or get pictures of specific accommodations and living areas sent to you).
4 – Advocacy during the selection and move in process.
5 – Resources for additional services.