Family gatherings provide a built-in opportunity to check up on elderly parents and other loved ones and determine how well they are managing to age in place.
A visit to their home can reveal if they are caring for themselves in healthy ways. Observing the way elderly loved ones cope with the increased noise and activity levels, socializing with large groups of people, and handle a disruption to their routine can reveal a lot about their resilience and alert family members to otherwise hidden warning signs.
When the family gathers for a reunion, birthday or anniversary celebration with elderly loved ones, there are warning signs to be on the lookout for that might indicate a problem or need for intervention.
1. Difficulty managing medications
According to the CDC, 50% of prescriptions in the US are taken incorrectly, particularly with regard to timing, dosage, frequency, and duration. This nonadherence can be fatal, especially in seniors whose health may rely on the proper administration of certain medications. Hence, caregivers should keep an eye out for missed doses, overdoses, difficulty reading directions on bottles, numerous prescriptions from different doctors, and talk about medications being too expensive.
2. Unsteady while walking
Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among individuals 65 and older. Likewise, the risk of falls increases proportionately with age. If your loved one has fallen more than once, is reluctant to walk even short distances, has unexplained injuries, has expressed fear of falling, or has difficulty navigating stairs, it may be time to have a conversation about senior care.
3. Noticeable decline in personal cleanliness
Hygiene plays an important role in senior health. Lack of personal cleanliness can also be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of cognitive decline. At your next family gathering, watch for untidy appearance and noticeable body odor. Also, look to see if your aging loved one is wearing the same clothes for days.
4. Missed or excessive doctor/hospital visits
It’s fine to miss a doctor’s appointment due to a scheduling conflict or a similar situation. However, repeated missed appointments could point to a larger issue like memory loss or even fear of driving. Frequent doctor or hospital visits can also point to senior health issues.
5. Change in behavior or personality
Significant mood or behavioral fluctuations can also point to health issues that require caregiver intervention. Take note if your aging loved one is acting more anxious or depressed or is easily upset. Also, keep an eye out for a lack of interest in usual activities or noticeable changes in daily routine or sleep patterns.
6. Reluctance to leave the house
Has your loved one started changing their visiting pattern with friends and/or family? Are they less involved in social or religious activities than they used to be? This isolation can be a sign of depression and other mental health issues.
7. Trouble performing daily housekeeping tasks
Chores are a regular part of homeownership. Thus, an inability to perform these basic tasks could mean it’s no longer safe for your senior loved one to age in place. At your next gathering, look out for dirty laundry or dishes piling up, simple home repairs not being made, and lights not working. Likewise, see if they’ve been adjusting the thermostat or tending to the home’s exterior as needed.
8. Unexplained weight loss
Unexplained weight loss is a health concern, no matter your age. Even if your senior loved one doesn’t look like they’ve lost weight, look for other warning signs like a shortage of food in the home or spoiled food in the refrigerator. Also, take note if they’ve stopped cooking altogether.
9. Unpaid bills or unopened mail
Much like chores and daily housekeeping tasks, checking the mail is a regular part of homeownership. If your aging loved one is not tending to their mail or their bills, it may be time to bring in professional help—before it starts affecting their finances.
10. Altered communication patterns
If your senior loved one is communicating with your less frequently or if the quality of those communications has declined, it may be time to talk to them about senior care. Likewise, changes to vision or hearing can both point to a decline in senior health and wellbeing.
It can be hard for any parent or older family member to admit they need help, and they might not even realize they need assistance.
If faced with this situation, share concerns with your elderly family member candidly and lovingly. Offer to arrange an appointment with their primary care doctor for a standardized cognitive assessment that can help detect objective signs of impairment.
Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment can help your older loved ones live an independent and fulfilling life for as long as possible.
Marjorie P. Lee Retirement Community can help to find the solution that’s right for your loved one and you. Schedule your tour here, and if you’d like to speak with someone directly, call Community Relations Manager Karen Christopher at 513-871-2090 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.