If you’re used to thinking of your parent or other loved one as always being on top of things; a capable person that you and others have always relied upon, the idea of them growing old and infirm may be a little difficult to confront. The fact however is that growing old is the natural, unavoidable progression of things. What is important at this stage is to notice when your loved one seems to need help and to ensure that they get the care that they need and deserve.
Remember all those times your parents stayed up all night because you were unwell? Now it’s your turn to ensure their safety and comfort in their later years. They may be too proud to admit it – even to their own selves – but it is important to look out for some of these signs that a loved one needs help:
Your loved one may forget to do things that they are used to doing. They may not be able to recall what they did recently this week. They may have trouble recalling familiar names and those tip-of-the-tongue moments may seem to become more and more frequent. They may keep misplacing things and have trouble finding them.
2. Mixing up medication
Checking up on their medications is important because it offers up important clues and also because you don’t want them to be over or under medicated. Find out whether they are getting their prescription filled regularly and also gently find out whether your loved one is taking their meds as they’re supposed to.
3. Extreme or inexplicable mood swings
Mood swings do happen to the best of us. However, if they seem to be occurring more frequently and without any particular reason, you should pay close attention.
4. Unpaid bills, bounced checks
If your loved one seems to forget to pay bills or seems to be losing track of their finances, this could be a warning sign. This may mean that they cannot now manage on their own and it also makes them vulnerable to scamsters and con artists.
5. Looking disheveled
Is your loved one starting to look a little disheveled and not really well put together? If your loved one has been a fastidious person who took great care with their dressing, matching their shoes, bags, makeup and so on, this would be a significant warning sign. It could indicate that they are losing interest in the things that used to be important or that they don’t have the energy and enthusiasm that they used to.
6. Low energy levels
Does your loved one appear frequently tired? Are they not as active as before? Have they cut down on physical activity that used to be a part of their daily routine? Is there an underlying illness that needs looking at or does this seem to be a general decline/slowing down?
7. Disorganized, rundown home
Again, if your loved one has been a house-proud person who always kept things shipshape, the presence of dust, unwashed dishes, clutter and general lack of organization are some warning signs. Make a note of things such as broken appliances, repairs needed to the home, dirty bathrooms, unmade beds and so on.
8. Surroundings showing signs of neglect
Overgrown grass and a general air of neglect could mean that your loved one simply isn’t able to cope with all the stuff that needs doing in a home. Either they are losing interest or they don’t have the physical energy to do things that they used to as a matter of course. Both ways, these are signs that your loved one needs help.
9. Irregular meals or reduced water intake
You may notice that your loved one doesn’t seem to cook as regularly as they used to. When you talk to them, you may find that they’ve been skipping meals. When you spend time with them, you may notice that they don’t seem to be drinking sufficient water. All these could be signs that your loved one needs some supervision. These are indications that they basically need someone to take care of them, take over some of the burdens of day-to-day chores and make sure they don’t neglect their own wellbeing.
10. Weight loss
If your loved one has lost weight recently, find out why this is so. Is it because they are not eating properly or forgetting to do so? Is there an illness that needs attention? Any sudden or significant weight loss may point to the fact that they now need help.
11. Changes in personal hygiene
Perhaps they don’t bathe as often as they used to. Their hair could seem like it needs cutting and their nails may appear unkempt. If you find your loved one still wandering around in their night things at noon, where earlier they would have labeled such behavior as slovenly, you must take note of this.
12. Bruises, cuts, scrapes
Have you noticed any bruises or cuts or scrapes recently? Even if they avoid talking about it or laugh it off as nothing, these are symptoms to watch out for. This could mean that your loved one isn’t as coordinated as they used to be. It means that they are stumbling or banging into things frequently or that their eyesight is deteriorating. This also means an increased risk of a major fall that could land them in hospital or even result in disability.
13. Missing appointments
If they’ve been forgetting doctor’s appointments, find out why. If they miss attending a family get-together or miss a grandchild’s birthday, why is this? Is it because they forgot? Is it because they are apprehensive of going out or uncomfortable in big crowds where earlier they were unfazed by all this?
14. Confusion, slow to react
You ask a question and they are not immediately clear what it is you’re asking about. If they seem confused, are slow to reply or their answer is vague or incoherent, then you really shouldn’t ignore this. The mental confusion could well be the sign of mental decline; even a symptom of age related dementia.
15. Difficulty moving around
They may now find stair climbing difficult and may try to avoid this as much as possible. You may notice that they have trouble sitting down and getting up. Their posture may change. Their movements and their walk slow down. The self-assured stride has now become a slow shuffle. This could mean deteriorating muscle strength and physical coordination. It could also mean that their current house is no longer suitable or safe for them to live in.
16. Reluctance to step out alone
When an otherwise confident and independent person finds reasons not to go out alone, you have to ask why. You know that Tucson is a generally safe area, so that cannot be a reason. Older people often avoid stepping out alone, particularly after dark, because their vision is no longer what it used to be and they have become generally diffident.
17. Reluctance to drive
Maybe they find reasons to call a cab rather than drive. You may notice new dents/scratches on the car. This could mean that they are no longer fully coordinated while driving. All these could be signs that they are in need of help and perhaps some simple companionship.
18. Signs of anxiety, paranoia or agitation
Though your loved one may not admit it, they may be lonely. This could manifest in your loved one frequently seeming anxious or agitated. They may also have some rather exaggerated stories to tell about a neighbor or a storekeeper whom they are suspicious of for various reasons. All this could owe itself to simple loneliness or a slow mental decline, none of which you should ignore.
19. Disinterest in things they loved
This can actually be a little heartrending for the family to see. This once vibrant and capable person who used to take such a keen interest in the people and the world around seems disinterested and disconnected. The activities and hobbies that they loved don’t seem very interesting any more.
20. Decreased social contact
Your loved one no longer seems to meet up with friends as they used to. Maybe they aren’t even speaking on the phone as frequently as they used to. They now seem reluctant to visit family and friends, and find excuses to opt out of family get-togethers and other social events. Maybe it’s just a reluctance to move out of their comfort zone or general aches and pains that make them reduce their social contact. However, social contact and interaction is important at all stages of life and is particularly important for healthy aging.
If you’re seeing several of the signs listed above, these could be an indication that your loved one is no longer the person they used to be. They aren’t as strong, self-reliant or capable as they used to be. Perhaps their own house is too much for them to manage. These are indications that they now need to be around others; they need help with their day to day routines. These could all be indications that your loved one may be happier, safer and much better looked after in an assisted living facility.
They will once again be around people, have things to do and get help with everyday chores. They don’t have to be alone or struggle with the many things that need doing in a house. Since they will be supervised, living in an elder friendly environment, there are less chances of a fall and any accident or illness will be quickly attended to. Your loved one will enjoy being around other like-minded people and have the advantage of a supportive community. This kind of positive environment helps seniors blossom and once again take an interest in life; an assisted living community can help transform their later years into meaningful, enjoyable, valuable ones.