America is getting older, with adults 65 or older making up about 15 percent of the population. Growing older is not always easy, for both the senior and their loved ones. While aging can often present a variety of challenges, including physical changes and mental health problems, it’s challenging to figure out how to know when your elderly parents need help at home, and when your loved one should seek help or make life changes.
While its natural for older adults to experience physical health changes as they age including muscle mass loss, bone density loss and joints becoming stiff with arthritis, there are some warning signs that can help you determine whether or not your elderly parents need help. Avoiding these warning signs can be detrimental to their health, so we recommend taking action if you notice any of the below warning signs in your parent.
How To Know When Your Elderly Parents Need Help
The majority of the below warning signs can be attributed to dementia, depression or physical and mental illnesses, which require medical attention and an action plan to help keep them safe should they choose to remain at home:
Noticeable weight loss. This can be caused by changing eating habits, appetite loss, difficulty cooking, or simply forgetting to eat meals. Talk about their diet, or eating routine to learn more about their weight loss and how you can help.
Neglected personal hygiene. When you visit are they wearing dirty clothes? Do they have body odor, bad breath, neglected nails and teeth, or sores on the skin? This can be especially troubling if they previously took meticulous care of themselves, and is typically a warning sign that something deeper is going on.
A messy, cluttered house. If you see stacks of bills or newspapers around the house, it can be more than a sign of laziness; these also pose a threat to their safety, as often times these piles are easy to trip over and can result in dangerous falls. You can offer to hire a cleaning service if they are not up to cleaning their home, but allowing clutter to build up in this way is a sign that your elderly parents may need help at home.
Increased accidents. When you spend time with them do you notice bruises or burns or other signs of physical injury? It’s possible that these accidents result from general weakness, or forgetfulness but be alert for misuse of alcohol or prescription medications. Minor injuries that are a result of experiencing increased falls can also be a sign of a more serious health concern. Be sure to address this with your loved one, or intervene by talking with their physician about what you’ve been noticing.
Mood changes or inappropriate behavior. This can involve being unusually loud, quiet, paranoid, or agitated. There are a variety of reasons why an older adult might be experiencing these type of mood or behavior swings, but be sure to document the behavior and bring it up with their physician at the next appointment.
Disorientation or short-term memory loss. There are many physical signs of forgetfulness which ranges from unopened mail, piling of newspapers, not filling prescriptions or missing appointments. It’s one thing to forget where you put your keys, and it’s another to find a gallon of milk sitting in the cupboard next to a stack of dishes. If your loved one seems particularly forgetful, take the time to visit more often, taking notes about the inconsistencies you may notice and then report that behavior to their physician.
Mishandled finances. Be observant if there are stacks of unpaid bills, unusual purchases (such as buying more than one subscription to the same magazine), or increased purchases from TV offers. Ask them if they need help with personal finances, or if a financial advisor is needed.
How to Help Elderly Parents From a Distance
It’s not always easy to broach the challenging subject of an aging parent needing help. If you’ve noticed some of the warning signs mentioned above, but are not totally convinced that the behavior warrants an intervention yet, you can help elderly parents from a distance by making yourself more available to check in with them in-person. It’s easier for those who are experiencing some sort of decline to fake it over the phone and much harder for them to hide any of these changes in person. If you don’t live near your loved one and are concerned about them, you can always speak with their neighbors or friends to get some trusted feedback about their well-being.
If you have the means, you might also want to consider having some in-home help at least several days a week to make sure that your loved one is taking care of themselves— eating regularly, taking their medications, and paying bills on time. Of course, we always think it’s a good idea to consult a doctor when you think there may be something wrong. Together with your doctor, you can figure out the best plan for your loved one to continue living a safe and healthy life without limits.
How to Help Aging Parents Stay in Their Home
If you feel as though any of the above warning signs are being exhibited by your loved one, then it could be time to consider some alternative care solutions. If they live alone, the first step can be purchasing a medical alert system for them, which would provide support if they fall, experience a stroke or heart attack, or have another accident in the house.
Additionally, a Medical Guardian medical alert system isn’t just for emergencies that require EMTs, police, or fire. Whether you’re feeling sick, dizzy, or just want to be connected to a loved one, Medical Guardian’s emergency operators can contact your Care Circle—your doctor, friends and neighbors, family—should you need non-emergency help.
Coming up with a comprehensive care plan with your loved one’s physician(s) can also help aging parents stay in their home. Between a medical alert system, an in-home care agency, or other senior specialists coming in to work with them, you can cover all your bases and ensure that not only will your loved one stay safe at home, but their quality of life will also greatly improve.