They’re our loved ones. They took care of us and helped us become the adults we are today. Our funny, hard-working dad. Our wise, kind-hearted mom. Our sweet grandma who always cooked our favorite meals. Our granddad with the green thumb. In our mind’s eye, they will always be that way — but unfortunately, growing older brings new challenges that we need to pay attention to. While enjoying the holidays over the past couple of months, did you notice any of the following occurring in one of your aging loved ones?
1. Changes in appearance. Aging warning signs related to hygiene and health include not bathing or brushing teeth, unkempt hair, and wearing soiled clothing. New burns or scars might indicate difficulty with cooking or forgetting a pot is on the stove. Bruises can be signs your loved one is having problems with mobility and balance.
2. Changes in physical health. Unintended weight loss, which can be due to not eating regularly or when a person might “forget” to eat, can suggest early dementia or depression. The opposite is also true, short-term memory loss can lead to unintended weight gain. Additional causes for poor eating habits can be a loss of appetite due to medications, or a lack of interest in shopping, preparing a meal and cleaning up. But it also can signal more serious medical conditions, such as cancer.
3. Changes in behavior and mental status. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of depression in older adults include memory difficulties, personality changes, fatigue, loss of appetite, sleep problems and avoiding socializing. Does your loved one seem less interested in their favorite hobbies? Have they withdrawn from peer friendships? Pay attention to their mood. Agitation can be caused by chronic pain, difficulty doing everyday tasks, or even changes in their sleeping patterns —all aging warning signs that can lead to more serious problems down the road.
4. Changes in the household. If your memories of home include a clean, organized home with few items out of place, you might be in for an unwelcome surprise when seeing your mom or dad during the holidays. During your visit, note the amount of clutter. Are there stacks of unpaid bills? Piles of laundry or newspapers everywhere? Not only can this indicate a problem with doing tasks, it can present a falling hazard.
Other aging warning signs are spoiled and outdated foods in the refrigerator or pantry. Are there unfilled prescription bottles on the counter? Your loved one might need some assistance with taking their medicines correctly.
Don’t forget to check the car and the garage for signs of dents, scratches or other mishaps. Talk to your loved one about how safe they feel driving, especially at night.
5. Changes in cognition, memory and judgement. Everyone misplaces their keys now and then. But if Granddad appears confused or expresses frustration with everyday tasks, it could be an early sign of dementia. Other important warning signs of aging to note are misplacing items, repeating themselves constantly, confusion and making poor decisions.
Since you visited during the holidays, assess whether your loved one anticipated the family gathering or seemed unaware of the season. If they’ve always enjoyed activities like baking cookies with the grandchildren or decorating a tree, but now have no interest, it might suggest they are struggling with physical or mental issues and might do better with a little help.
THE NEXT STEP Now that the holidays have officially drawn to a close and everyone is in a mindset of looking forward, take the time to talk with your loved one about your concerns and get their perspective. Good dialogue includes understanding the other person’s point of view, so be sure to listen with the intention of finding the best resolution that you both can agree on. Remember to broach the subject respectfully and in such a way that everyone is able to participate in identifying the underlying problem(s) and encouraged to come up with solutions.
Keep in mind that the changes mentioned above don’t necessarily mean a move to assisted living or a nursing home is warranted. However, their presence does indicate that some sort of daily supportive care is needed. For many families, the next step may be hiring an in-home care company that would allow your aging loved one to stay in the comfort of their own home for as long as safely possible. That's where Favor Home Care comes in!
If you feel like Mom, Dad, Grandma, Granddad or even Aunt Sue could benefit from a little extra assistance with Activities of Daily Living such as meal prep, light housekeeping, medication reminders or personal care, or you need reassurance that your favorite loved one is safe and well taken care of, give us a call at 501-725-2273 and let us help. Our Care Managers are available to answer any of your questions and concerns, and will navigate you to what's best for your loved one, not what's best for our bottom line.