August 22, 2018

“When will I know if it’s time to get help for my aging parents?”

This is a question that millions of people across the country ask themselves every day. And, unfortunately, there isn’t always an easy answer – especially if you’re looking to your parents to come and ask for help for themselves.

The reality is that this just isn’t that common. As a rule, older adults want to remain independent, and avoid becoming a burden for their family members.

But at the same time, age takes a toll on us all. And sometimes, the effects can creep up quickly. Many of the little changes that naturally come with growing older – vision and hearing decline, trouble with movement, confusion – can really add up, and ultimately have a major impact on your mom or dad’s lifestyle.

So what can you do as a concerned family member? One of the best and most important first steps you can take is to watch your parents, and see if there are any changes happening with their behavior, household, and social life.

What “yellow flags” should you be looking out for when it comes to mom or dad? What are the signs that it may be time to bring in a caregiver or seek another form of help? Here are a few things to watch out for:

1.) Unable to Keep Up With Daily Activities

There are lots of everyday tasks that we tend to take for granted. They’re the routines that get us through the day and night, which we call the activities of daily living (ADL).

If your parent is seemingly unable or unwilling to perform basic activities of daily living, such as…

    • Bathing regularly
    • Walking
    • Cooking and eating
    • Dressing and grooming

… Then it might be time to consult with a caregiver, who can assist your parent with many of these ADLs, while also taking on light housework and providing much-needed companionship.

2.) Changes In Their Appearance

Is your normally dapper dad forgoing his best shirts in favor of a robe? Has your mom or dad stopped cutting their hair or nails?

Often, changes in an older parent’s physical appearance indicate that they could be having difficulties day-to-day. Warning signs might include:

    • Noticeable weight loss
    • Poor grooming or hygiene
    • Bruises or other “black and blue” marks
    • Moving differently – holding onto furniture for support, rising up or sitting down more slowly

A parent losing weight rapidly, for example, might suggest that they’re having difficulty cooking or eating, or maybe going out and shopping for food on their own. If you see your parent with bruises, or seemingly having trouble moving, this could be a sign that they’ve suffered a fall, or are dealing with limited mobility. This can have a domino effect on many other aspects of their daily life, including taking care of themselve and their household.

3.) Changes in Home or Living Environment

Has your parent’s home seemingly fallen into disrepair? Have they given up on housekeeping duties? Do you notice any signs, such as:

    • Yard or garden have become overgrown or unkempt
    • Mail piling up
    • Dents or scratches on car
    • House is dusty, cluttered, or dirty
    • Noticeable carpet stains or burn marks in kitchen
    • Unwashed laundry
    • Expired or spoiled food in fridge
    • Pet hasn’t been groomed properly; litterbox overflowing

There could be a number of different factors at play here. Issues with mobility can certainly lead to mom putting off her chores, as can mental changes such as cognitive decline or depression. Similarly, vision decline could lead to your parent misreading the expiration date on their medication or foods, or ignoring their mail for long stretches of time.  

4.) Signs of Loneliness or Social Isolation

As people age in place, maintaining an active social life can get harder. Does your parent seem lonely or socially isolated? Have they:

    • Stopped returning phone calls, letters, or emails
    • Stopped traveling alone
    • Given up on hobbies, activities, or other interests
    • Started missing appointments

For example, if your mom has traditionally gone to a volunteer event at least once per week, but has since given it up to just sit at home, that could be a sign of physical, emotional, or cognitive changes.

A caregiver with a personalized care plan could provide companionship around the house, while also providing driving support to help mom get to her weekly event, or even go on day trips to museums, gardens, or shopping centers.  

5.) Mental and Behavioral Changes

Sometimes, visiting your parent after some time apart, it can be shocking to notice the changes in their behavior. At times, you may even ask yourself, “is this really the same person I’ve known all these years?”

Has your mom or dad changed noticeably? Are they exhibiting symptoms such as:

    • Consistent memory lapses
    • Confusion
    • Failure to pay bills or remember appointments on time
    • Stopped taking medication
    • Mood swings
    • Wandering aimlessly
    • Getting lost in familiar locations
    • Aggressive or abusive behavior
    • Repetitive or halting speech

Some of these signs could indicate that your parent might be developing Alzheimer’s or dementia, or suffering from depression or anxiety problems. In other cases, these changes could be brought on by frustration – either with their living environment, or with their inability to keep up with the changes happening with age.

Are You Ready to Ask for Help?

If your parent has exhibited any or all of the signs above, then it may be time to consider your options for providing help. This can be a tough conversation to have with your mom or dad, and may end up involving everyone from other family members to your parent’s healthcare providers.

Above all, it’s crucial to think about your parent’s wants and needs. For many people, leaving home can be a traumatic change. After all, this is a comfortable, secure environment –  a place where they likely brought up a family and created many lasting memories.

Fortunately, there are options out there to help your parents age in place!

At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.

Our companions are trained, bonded, and insured, and can help provide a variety of services designed to help your loved one remain in the comfort of their own home.

Have any more questions? Interested in seeing what sets our service apart? Get in touch today to get the conversation started!