Although health care has improved tremendously in the past few years, aging is still one of the most common factors that pose progressively challenging risks. The psychological aspect of aging and psychological repercussions are often not talked about. Going unheard, being left out, not thinking of second chances are all reasons to worry once we cross a certain age.
Signs of declining health or abilities can be so subtle that neither the parent – nor their children or caregiver – may realize help is needed. It is usual for seniors to avoid engaging in conversations regarding their difficulties or deny them altogether, insisting that they are fine, even when they are not. They may feel guilty about having to depend on others or may fear that their life would change if they spoke up.
There might also be times children dismiss the anxious questions and fearful thoughts of their parents, which affect them deeply. It is, therefore, important to listen to them when they speak and learn to recognize unspoken indicators of underlying illnesses or other age-related issues.
Keeping this in mind, given below is a checklist of signs to look for when caring for an older person. If just one applies to your situation, it might be time to start thinking about care options for your parent.
Bizarre Changes in Behavior
Note any sudden changes in behavior. Depression, side effects from medication and health conditions can cause aging adults to neglect their home, health and hygiene. Irritability, anxiety and mood swings may be early indicators of an underlying problem.
Unusual or Unkempt Appearance
Issues like arthritis and joint pain can affect an aging adult’s dexterity, making it difficult to get dressed. Take note of your parents’ overall appearance. Does dad have his shirt pressed out with no creases at all or has he skipped pressing his clothes altogether? Has mom stopped wearing saree though it is her favorite attire?
Another very common sign of difficulty in caring for oneself is bathing or showering less often. Imbalance and decreased mobility can cause older people to put off bathing or showering for several days due to fear of falling. As sense of smell weakens with age, parents may not realize that their personal hygiene needs attention.
Changes in Diet
Senses of smell and taste are related and both diminish with age. Eating may no longer hold the appeal it once did. Decreased taste and smell can mean that meals are skipped or spoiled food isn’t recognized. Also, dangers like the smell of natural gas or smoke may go unnoticed. Keep an eye on the expiry date of the food they keep in the refrigerator or their kitchen cabinet. Are they taking out the trash regularly?
A Messy House
Are the plants they lovingly cared for beginning to wilt? Are newspapers and magazines piling up outside? Are there stacks of unopened mail in the house or piles of laundry or trash? Your parent may no longer have the energy or ability to perform the household chores necessary to maintain a clean home.
Trouble Keeping Track of Medication
Missing a dosage or taking multiple doses of medicines can result in serious health issues. If your parent is struggling to keep track of his or her medication regimen, it could be time to get outside help.
Most of us aren’t with our parents all the time, so it may be difficult to recognize these signs right away. Ask a sibling or your parent’s friend – someone who sees them regularly – if they have noticed any of the signs mentioned above. If so, talk with your parents about the kind of help they may need, and research home care, independent living and assisted living options. Opening the discussion early and creating a plan together is key. Ultimately, it will mean peace of mind and a higher quality of life for everyone involved.