What are the warning signs when aging parents need help? With more and more families dispersed geographically, adult children who live far away from their elderly parents face ongoing worry about their health and safety. As aging parents, particularly those who live alone, face medical and mobility issues, questions relating to their physical, social and psychological well-being arise.
Adult children should be aware of any changes in their parents’ attitudes or behavior— changes which are often undetectable over the telephone. There are, however, clear warning signs that some type of intervention is needed.
The following are 10 warning signs aging parents need help:
1. Mail and bills are left to pile up. The simple act of opening and filing mail becomes overwhelming. Paying bills on time. Managing a checking account can also become too much for a parent to handle.
2. The house is cluttered or unkempt. Lack of interest. This should be of special concern if a parent has always been neat and orderly.
3. Food in the refrigerator is uneaten or spoiled. Shopping, cooking, and cleaning become too much trouble. A parent might eat just enough to get by but suffer nutritionally. Losing weight can be another sign that a parent is not eating a nutritious diet.
4. Signs of scorching on the bottoms of pots and pans. A result of short-term memory loss, this is a dangerous sign that parents are forgetting about pots left on the stove, causing a fire hazard, and threatening both the individual and the surrounding neighbors’ safety.
5. Declining personal hygiene as indicated by unkempt hair, dirty or lengthy nails, poor oral hygiene, body or urine odor, unshaven, and wearing same clothes over and over e washing machine is in the basement. Or there may be a fear of falling in the tub or shower.
6. Missed doctor’s appointments. Sometimes this is simply a product of not having transportation and not knowing how to access ride options.
7. Getting up and down stairs and in and out of home becoming difficult. Walking unsteady on level ground, complaining of dizziness, and falls are likely or have already occurred
8. Forgetting to take medication. A sign of short-term memory loss or depression, this is not just a quality of life issue, but a real risk factor.
9. Inappropriate behavior, clothing or speech. You may hear about this from a neighbor, someone who has noticed that your parent is not dressing appropriately for the weather, for instance. That’s a sign that he or she might be confused.
10. Not recognizing the need for, arranging, or scheduling necessary household repairs and maintenance. Lawn not mowed, trash disposed of, and mail retrieved with any regularity
It appears they need help, now what??
Once adult children determine their elderly parent may need help or assistance the next step is determining what kind? Do they need adult day services, home modifications for aging in place, meal delivery, seen by a geriatric physician to rule out depression, in-home care, interaction at a senior center, installing a medical alert device…these are just a few things that can make a big difference to an older adult living alone, who most likely want to remain at home to ‘age in place‘.
Consider Hiring a Geriatric Care Manager
Families can also consider consulting a Geriatric Care Manager. Care managers work closely with each elderly parent and his or her family, making a detailed assessment to find out what solutions are needed, and will be more likely accepted. In addition, a care manager can often help a parent understand the need for change.
Resistance to any kind of change is common, especially among the senior population. That’s where having an objective third party involved can be helpful. Geriatric Care Managers can make this time of transition easier for everyone. Even if the adult children live out of the area a care manager can be their eyes and ears so a parent’s everyday well-being is less of a worry.
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