You ask your parents how they’re doing and the reply is always the same – they are fine, there’s nothing to worry about. Hearing that can be such a relief! However, no matter how insistent your parents are that they are doing okay, it’s a good idea to check on them regularly and take stock of the situation yourself.
The reality of aging is that it brings with it a lot of changes, both physically and mentally. Some may be noticeable overnight. Unfortunately, others may be imperceptible at first, but can lead to disastrous consequences if ignored.
While there are many, here are 6 critical signs your elderly parent may need assistance, even if they don’t admit it.
- A Cluttered, Dirty Home
Does your parent’s home look uncharacteristically messy and otherwise uncared for?
Keeping a home looking clean and clutter-free gets increasing more difficult with age. Hauling the vacuum over the entire home, bending over to pick things off the floor, wiping the dust from surfaces, washing the dishes every day, changing the linens regularly… it’s a lot for our elderly parents to handle. Over time, sadly, the one or two chores that are overlooked every other day add up to a home that looks cluttered, in disarray and otherwise dirty.
Take a look at fixtures, furniture, and appliances in your parent’s home. Is everything in good condition and working as it should be?
- Poor Personal Hygiene
Have your parents started lounging around in their pajamas all day long? Have they stopped bothering to groom and tend to their personal hygiene? There could be many reasons for this, including a real fear of slipping and falling – on a wet floor. Thus, they stop showering as regularly as they should. Maybe they keep forgetting to brush their teeth or comb their hair. Perhaps they feel nobody visits them anymore, so why bother anyway?
No matter the reason, lack of personal hygiene is a matter of concern and should not be ignored. This is especially true with parents who have always prided themselves as being “clean.”
- Change in Eating Habits
Take a look in the refrigerator and pantry. Have fresh, healthy foods that you are used to seeing been replaced by canned, prepackaged or unwholesome junk foods? Are there any fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator or counter bowl? Do the fresh groceries look unspoiled? Are their canned and packaged foods good well within the “best used by date?” or expired?
There’s no doubt that grocery shopping can be challenging for your elderly parents. Cooking and cleaning up can be just as challenging. Regardless, allowing them to consume too much unhealthy food is not ideal. Poor nutrition can accelerate the aging process and result in a host of other issues. As well, piled up, dirty dishes attract unsavory bugs and potentially rodents.
If you notice such changes, confront them early on. Speak to your parents to learn what’s stopping them from eating healthy, wholesome meals or from regularly cleaning up after themselves so you can identify a proper solution.
- Increasing Forgetfulness
We’ve all misplaced our house keys, reading glasses or have forgotten to pay a utility bill. Certainly, an occasional episode of forgetfulness can be laughed off, but it is a definite cause for concern when forgetfulness starts to become the norm.
Forgetting to pay a utility bill by the due date can mean getting the power shut off. Forgetting to switch off the gas – after cooking – can pose a fire hazard. Missed doctor’s appointments, meals, and medications not taken regularly can be further detrimental to your parent’s overall wellbeing.
Another sign to keep an eye on is forgetting to call on birthdays or remembering their own. Forgetting major family events, like birthdays, can be a sign that something is wrong.
Again, occasional forgetfulness is part of being human. Pay attention and keep score so you can better identify any new patterns in forgetfulness.
- Loss of Interest in Hobbies or Activities They Once Enjoyed
Have your parents, who once enjoyed socializing and hosting guests, completely withdrawn from the social scene? Have they stopped tending to the garden they were once proud of?
What about their other hobbies? Have they lost interest in everything that once brought them so much joy?
While there may be many reasons your parents give up a certain activity or hobby, an overall lack of excitement and happiness should be cause for concern.
Interests change over time. If your parents change up their interests and activities for others, that’s great! However, if they become unusually withdrawn from activities and social events or suddenly prefer to keep to themselves, that is something that needs to be addressed quickly. Several studies have shown that loneliness can have devastating implications for the elderly and can lead to anxiety and depression.
- Trouble Walking Around or Standing Up from A Seated Position
Does mom seem to struggle when standing up from her favorite chair? Has dad started shuffling his feet when walking? Have your parents become hesitant to go outside because they’re afraid of slipping on the driveway or sidewalk?
Today, there are many new mobility aids for improving your parent’s confidence in their ability to get around safely (walkers, canes, non-slip shoes and electric scooters). Speak to your parents about their mobility concerns and address them head-on.
Remember, the last thing you parents want is to be a burden. They won’t always tell you about the difficulties they’re experiencing. Check in with them regularly. When at their home, look for anything that seems out of character.
If you notice things are out of sorts, start an open discussion with them to understand their struggles and find acceptable solutions. You’ve got this… together!