They have been there your entire life, and they have always seemed to be the same—same habits, opinions, interests, tastes in clothes, food, and the same outlook on life. Until recently, when you noticed some differences.
Recently, however, you have noticed some changes to the normal behavior. Before, Mom was always neatly dressed, and moved energetically about the house. Dad talked about sports and current events, and loved to read the newspaper. Now, Mom looks a little unkempt, repeatedly wearing the same clothes with some stains, and she spends a lot of time sitting in her chair. Dad seems disinterested in how his favorite team is doing, and five newspapers are on the front lawn, unopened.
It’s time to take a closer look.
Signs That Your Senior Parent Needs Extra Care
Plenty of areas exist around the house where subtle behavior changes can be identified. Look where the mail is normally kept — are there piles of unopened, overdue bills? Is there dust and grime throughout the house, where before it had been regularly cleaned? Also, check to see if house maintenance has been neglected—items that have needed repair or replacement that have been ignored for weeks or months.
Is the yard or garden that used to be kept so immaculately now overgrown and weed-filled?
Are there new unexplained dents or scratches on your parents’ car? Has the garage been damaged in such a way that indicate diminished driving skills?
Your parents’ checkbook or online accounts will indicate how well they are keeping up with their finances. Have the utility bills and insurance premiums been consistently paid on time?
The medicine cabinet may indicate problems if you discover that medications have not been taken as prescribed (the bottle of medications you looked at a couple of weeks ago still has about the same number of pills in it).
Take a closer look at your parents. Does their appearance, including cleanliness of clothes, and personal hygiene no longer meet the standards they used to maintain? Do you see unexplained bruising on their bodies that may indicate falls or other accidents?
Also, watch your parents as they move about the home. Do they have difficulty rising from a chair? Have stairs become a significant challenge? Is using the bathroom tub or toilet now a problem? Ask them about any new pains or physical challenges they may be experiencing.
An examination of the pantry may reveal expired food items. If the refrigerator still contains the now moldy casserole you saw three weeks ago, it could have just been overlooked… or it might point to a more serious problem.
All of these items could be signs of depression, physical disability, or cognitive impairment.
Other Items to Look For:
- Recent accidents or close calls, such as falls or medical scares
- A worsening of a chronic health condition
- Significant short-term memory loss
- Difficulty with problem-solving
- Frequently repeating the same items in conversation
- Several memory aids posted around the home
- Personality changes
- Fluctuations in weight
- Withdrawal and increased isolation
Other Items to Question
As awkward as it may feel, there are questions that should be discussed with your parents if you see many of these warning signs:
- Take them for a short drive and then ask if they know the way back to their home.
- Question if they know how to access emergency services like 911. Also, check their smoke detectors for charged batteries and confirm they know what to do when an alarm sounds.
- Observe if they can make something for themselves to eat. Can they operate the stove? Are they capable of grocery shopping?
- Are they fearful of being alone?
If what you see or the answers you receive start to cause you alarm, bring the family together and discuss your observations. You should also talk to your parents’ physician, and you may also want to involve a care manager, a skilled and experienced senior care professional who can provide answers and resources to meet a wide array of senior care needs.
If your senior loved one needs additional support, it may be time to consider Care Management services or explore senior living community options. Bethesda’s communities across the St. Louis area offer a wide range of care and services to meet your senior loved ones needs. Contact a community near you to learn more or schedule a tour.