It’s safe to say that the goal of most people approaching the latter half of their life is to grow old gracefully. And while many challenges emerge for those approaching their “mid-life era,” a common one for many people is helping with the care of now-elderly parents or loved ones. While it may not be an issue many people actively think of as the years pass, it can suddenly become a reality for those growing older with aging parents. Preparation is critical, so here are some warning signs to look for that signal an aging parent may need help at home.
Changes in their Home Environment
One of the first and more obvious signs of physical or mental decline in the elderly is noticing a change in the older person’s home and surroundings. What was once a neat and tidy home may now be in disarray. Increased clutter around the house could very quickly become a fall hazard for older individuals. Keep an eye out for expired foods in the fridge or pantry, which could be a health risk. Unpaid utilities could leave an older person without heat, water, or electricity.
Changes in their Hygiene or Physical Appearance
When an elderly person loses the ability to care for themselves and their hygiene, it is a sign they may need some extra help at home. Inconsistent bathing, attention to personal care, dirty or stained clothing, and noticeable weight loss or gain are all factors in this category. Whether the inability to care for themselves is a mobility issue, a decline in mental status, or an onset of depression, it needs to be addressed. Get them some help while at the same time trying to maintain the elderly person’s dignity.
Changes in Mood/Affect
If an elderly loved one appears sad, depressed, or withdrawn from family or friends, this is a definite sign they may need assistance and intervention. While the demands of aging may be overwhelming to some people, these symptoms could also be signs of clinical depression or even the start of dementia in the elderly. Getting your loved one evaluated by a doctor and securing the proper help and resources as soon as possible is key.
As a result of forgetfulness, the depression mentioned above, or dementia, not taking prescribed medication correctly is a massive health and safety issue for the elderly. Many older individuals are on several prescribed medications, and it may not be obvious what they should take and when they should take it. Medication errors could lead to severe or deadly health issues if not handled early and adequately. In fact, studies show that nearly half of poisonings in seniors involve medication errors.
It is common for even the most physically fit elderly person to slow down some with the onset of aging. However, it is essential to note if your elderly loved one struggles with physical decline. If you see your parents or loved ones struggling to walk up or down the stairs, having an unbalanced gait when walking, sitting in one spot for hours, or having pain when they stand up, it is time to intervene and get them some assistance.
While it isn’t easy to think of our parents or loved ones getting older and possibly declining in their health and mobility, it is a reality we must prepare for in advance. According to the National Institute on Aging, early planning and preparation concerning the health, financial, and legal aspects of our aging loved ones is essential for both the caregiver and the loved one. So, whether it be establishing a living will, more frequent check-ins on their well-being, or setting your loved one up with some assistance within their home, taking action before your aging loved one begins to decline will benefit all involved.