When you are responsible for helping aging parents who are still living at home (either yours or theirs), it can be challenging to know what changes in behavior might occur as a natural part of aging or as a sign of a bigger problem. After all, it’s not like anyone hands you a handbook on the day you become a caregiver.
Looking after elderly parents at home can be overwhelming and sometimes chaotic, especially if you are working outside of the home and have children to take care of as well. With all the other responsibilities and distractions in your life it can be easy to miss early signs that your loved one may need more care and attention, potentially due to bigger health concerns.
So what exactly are you supposed to be looking for? Here are 8 signs a parent is struggling at home:
There is a normal level of forgetfulness that we all experience at certain points throughout our lifetime, but if you start to notice that a loved one seems to be forgetting big things--like eating meals or paying bills--it could be a sign that they need additional help. From dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, to mini-strokes and Vascular dementia, forgetfulness on a larger scale is a telltale sign that it’s time to take your parent to the doctor.
Lack of Hygiene
If you notice a marked change in the level of your loved one’s personal hygiene, you need to address the issue immediately. Whether they are skipping showers or baths for days at a time, forgetting or neglecting to brush their teeth or trim their nails, this is a sign that your loved one may be suffering from more serious issues, such as depression, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, among others.
Sometimes part of helping aging parents goes beyond the physical; you may end up having to take over financial duties for them as well. If you notice bills piling up, or hear messages about overdue payments on the answering machine, it might be time to have a chat with your parent about taking over their financial responsibilities. Otherwise, the consequences can be grave, leading to a foreclosure on a home or heat and electric being turned off.
It’s not uncommon for joints in the legs and hips to deteriorate or become inflamed, making everyday tasks, such as walking up and down stairs, getting in and out of bed, or running errands, much more challenging. Although many seniors do not like to admit when they are experiencing difficulty, when you are responsible for helping aging parents at home, it’s vital that you keep an eye out for this. Prolonged mobility issues can lead to senior isolation, depression and complications to overall health.
Clutter and Cleanliness
If you are looking after elderly parents at home, you should keep an eye on whether or not they have difficulty keeping up with housework and cleaning up after themselves. If dirty laundry and dishes begin to pile up, or stacks of mail and newspapers pop up around the house, or even if you open the refrigerator and find most of the items expired or spoiled, those are definitely signs a parent is struggling at home. And if it isn’t taken care of immediately, it can potentially lead to a dangerous hoarding problem, which can have detrimental health consequences.
Loss of Interest In Hobbies and Friends
When an aging parent suddenly stops showing interest in a hobby they used to love, or no longer socialize as much as they used to, it could be a sign of depression. According to Mental Health America, a community-based non-profit dedicated to educating people about mental health, more than 2 million people “over the age of 65 suffer from some form of depression.” Depression is also more prevalent in those who have been diagnosed with a chronic disease or illness or who are living with a disability.
Rapid weight loss is another one of the signs a parent is struggling at home. Whether due in part to forgetting or neglecting to go food shopping, or because cooking a homemade meal for one can be difficult, or due to medication mismanagement, or even as a sign of a deeper health concern, weight loss because of a change in eating habits is a warning sign when you are helping aging parents at home. If your loved one has recently lost a recognizable amount of weight, bring them to see their doctor as soon as possible.
Confusion can appear to be normal in certain circumstances, but for older adults who are living at home, a sense of confusion is a symptom of a bigger issue. From not seeming to know what is going on or where they are, confusion could be a sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or it could also be a sign that a stroke or seizure has occurred and the sooner they receive medical attention, the better.
Supporting Seniors At Home
It’s not easy looking after elderly parents at home, but it’s also not a burden that caregivers have to bear alone. There are plenty of great resources available to caregivers to help support them in their duties while helping aging parents at home, including Medical Guardian.
And with our newest product line, the Family Guardian medical alert system, you, as a caregiver, can remain more involved. The Family Guardian Monitoring App will send you updates about your loved one’s daily actions on your smartphone throughout the day, providing you with greater peace of mind when you can’t physically be there with them.