Watching your parents age and begin to struggle with day-to-day activities can be incredibly difficult – to see your dad’s once strong hands begin to shake, or to witness your organized and “on-top of it” mom forget to pay her electric bill. Still, however challenging it may be to see parents grow older, it is important to keep an eye out for signs that they may need help in the home. And sometimes, that little bit of extra support, is all that is needed to keep them safe, happy and healthy. Read on for ten things that can alert you to the fact that your parents may need an extra set of hands.
1. Any Change in Medical Condition or A New Diagnosis
Any new medical condition or diagnosis, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, should at least warrant having a conversation about the possibility of getting support. If not now, then in the future. Many progressive conditions do not require much support in the beginning, but as time goes on, getting up and around can become increasingly difficult and medical needs may become more complex. If you are not sure what to expect with a specific disease or condition, a geriatric care manager or RN care manager can connect you to resources and talk to you about getting help in the home.
2. Lack of Proper Personal and Environmental Hygiene
If you notice that your loved one’s hair isn’t combed or that their breath is worse than usual, it is cause for concern. Moreover, things like unwashed sheets or garbage that has not been taken out, may be indications that your parents are having difficulty keeping up with their normal day-to-day activities. Assistance with bathing, dressing and toileting are one of the more frequent reasons that people decide to enlist the help of a caregiver. Oftentimes, a family member may not want their son or daughter to help them go to the bathroom or shower. In this case, a dedicated caregiver is the perfect solution.
3. Spoiled Food in the Fridge
A lack of food in the fridge or rotting or expired food can be an indication that your parent is forgetting to go to the grocery store or may not feel confident driving themselves there. An elderly person who is having trouble staying on top of groceries and meals, may lose significant amounts of weight or have a poor diet that can lead to a lack of nutrition or even food poisoning. In cases like this, a caregiver can be tasked with cleaning out the fridge, going to the grocery store for a list of items, and preparing meals.
4. A Lack of Home Maintenance
If your parents’ lawn is starting to look like a forest or their dishwasher has been leaking for weeks on end, it could indicate that they do not notice or no longer have the energy and strength to maintain their home the way they used to. Consider organizing a family work party on the weekends to help them keep up with repairs and basic home maintenance or look into hiring a handy man to visit their home for routine check-ups.
5. Unfilled Prescriptions or Unused Medication
If your loved one is forgetting to fill or take their medication, there could be dire consequences. Some aging individuals simply need a reminder to take their medication, while others actually require assistance taking or administering medications. Oftentimes there are just too many medications to keep track of and reconcile, which essentially involves figuring out which kind of medicine can be taken with another and when. In fact, incorrect dosing and management of medications is cited as the number one avoidable medical error in the U.S. To make it easier, a visiting nurse can come in once a month, or more frequently, to check drug dosage and ensure that your parent’s mediset is filled properly.
6. Missed Appointments
Frequently “forgetting” or missing appointments is another sign that your aging parent may need some support in the home. Missing important engagements, particularly doctor’s appointments, can be detrimental to their health and can indicate issues with memory, time management, driving ability and confidence in going out on their own. If you are unable to manage your parent’s schedule, a geriatric care manager can aid you in care coordination. Furthermore, a caregiver can pick up and drive parents to and from appointments, as well as sit with them during the appointment to take notes which they can then relay to the care manager or family members.
7. Late Payments, Collection Calls, or Unread Mail
If the mail is piling up or you notice that your parents’ bills are going unpaid, it may be because of a decline in executive functioning. Executive functioning is the higher- level cognitive skill that you use to organize and regulate information and other cognitive functions. If your parent’s doctor suspects a severe decline in cognitive ability, they may refer him or her to a specialist. Primary care doctors also rely on outside information to get a full picture of a person’s deficit. It may be helpful to visit the doctor with your parent, as there is often a reluctance to admit that there is a problem.
8. Unexplained Bruising or Skin Lacerations
Bruising and scrapes can sometimes be a sign that your parent is having trouble moving about their home. These types of injuries, while seemingly minor, can quickly turn serious, particularly if an elderly person is on a blood thinner. If you see bruises or scrapes on your loved one, treat it as a serious warning sign. Tripping and falling can ultimately wind them up in the hospital with a serious injury or worse. Some in-home medical services, like physical therapy, can help strengthen and teach your aging parents how to move about their home safely. There are also many durable medical equipment companies that provide items like grab bars, non-skid pads, walkers and more.
9. Changes in Mood or Behavior
If your “typically optimistic” dad is suddenly turned sullen or your “always-eager to go somewhere” mom just wants to sit at home, you may need to explore if it has an underlying cause. Sometimes mood changes are simply a matter of feeling lonely and needing companionship. Other times, it is a sign of a more serious issue, like the on-set of dementia or another disease that affects cognition. In either case, a caregiver can aid in helping your parent stay involved in their community, assist them in doing the hobbies they love, and provide some much-needed companionship during the day. In cases of dementia, a caregiver can also ensure that your parent does not wander and get lost, ensuring safety, while still maintaining a level of independent living.
10. Scratches and Dents on Their Car
Unexplained scratches and dents on your parent’s car, may be a sign of decline in driving ability and safety. Of course, anyone can end up with a scratch on their car, but if it is a reoccurring theme then it is cause for concern. As poor driving ability affects not only the person driving but other individuals as well. If you are worried about your loved one’s driving at any point, you can have them tested by a driver rehab specialist. CHCS has a driving evaluation program that looks at driving from a medical standpoint and tests everything from cognition to physical aptitude and visual/spatial awareness. At the end of the evaluation, all of the observations are written up in an objective format that can be discussed with your parent and their doctor.
In the end, anything that is outside of the character of your loved one, should be considered a red flag and brought up as a potential topic of discussion at their next doctor’s appointment. Knowing where to start with care can be overwhelming, but CHCS has trained care liaisons who can help you identify areas of potential difficulty and match you to the type of care that will provide the best support. To speak with a care liaison about your questions or to discuss options for in home support, call us at 425.275.5858.