December 10, 2018

As we grow older, our minds and bodies change. These changes are a natural part of aging, and they are a natural part of life.

But for family members of aging adults, it can be intimidating watching these shifts happen in real time, especially when you’re not sure what to be looking for.

Caring for a parent or another loved one as they age is an act profoundly rooted in love and support. And yet for family caregivers, there’s no roadmap that shows exactly what your older loved ones may need, or when they may need it. What’s more, most older adults won’t come to you asking for help, or perhaps even acknowledge that something’s wrong. They may not even be aware of the extent of their changes, or may just take burgeoning health issues for granted, even as they set off warning bells for you.

It can be tough to watch someone you love change mentally and physically, especially if you’re unsure what transitions and developments are to be expected, and which might be “yellow flags” suggesting that something is amiss.

As you watch over your older loved ones, here are five questions to ask yourself in order to keep things in perspective – and to gauge when it may be time to look for additional help, beyond what you can provide on your own.

1.) “Can My Loved One Keep Up With Their Day-to-Day?”

In professional caregiving, there are tasks and routines that we call activities of daily living, or ADLs. Common ADLs include bathing, sitting and standing, moving from room to room, cooking and eating, or dressing and grooming. In short, they are the everyday tasks that we perform all the time. If your older loved one seems unable to perform some or all of these basic ADLs, then it may be time to bring in additional support. An in-home companion, for example, can help assist your parent with their ADLs each day, while also making things easier by providing driving services, housework, meal prep, and, of course, friendship.

2.) “Have I Noticed Any Major Changes In My Loved One’s Appearance?”

Does something about your older loved one seem off? Do they look or move differently than they used to? For instance, have you observed:

  • Rapid or significant weight loss
  • Poor grooming or hygiene (long nails, unbrushed teeth, unkempt hair, etc.)
  • Changes in how they dress (wearing the same outfit all the time, refusing to change out of grubby clothes, etc.)
  • Unexplained bruises or other “black and blue” marks
  • Your parent moving differently (such as holding onto furniture for support, rising up or sitting down far more gingerly)

More often than not, physical changes such as these suggest that your aging relative could be having some difficulties, ranging from limited mobility to a chronic illness to depression or anxiety. It’s important to seek help in the immediate term, and then consider how best to address your loved one’s health and wellbeing long-term.

A trained and experienced senior companion, for example, may be able to help your parent with dressing, grooming, and bathing, while also taking on other household chores as they recover from a fall or regroup after medical treatments.

3.) “Do I Notice Any Changes In My Loved One’s Home Environment?”

For many adults, walking into the home of a senior loved one can come as a bit of a shock. Often, even visiting a home you’ve spent time in – perhaps even grew up in – can feel strange, especially if the home looks significantly different.

If your normally fastidious loved one has let their home become messy, or fall into disrepair, it could be a sign that they’re unable or unwilling to take on their housekeeping responsibilities. This could be due to changes in mobility, mental changes, or physical changes, such as a loss of vision or smell.

In any case, signs such as an overgrown yard and garden; piles of unanswered mail or newspaper; an excess of dust and clutter around the house; piles of unwashed laundry; expired food in the fridge; and burn or stain marks on their clothing or household surfaces can all be signs that your parent needs some help keeping up with their housekeeping – and may just be indicators that your loved one is going to need additional levels of attention and care, as well.

4.) “Does My Older Loved One Seem Lonely or Withdrawn?”

Is your mom the sort of person who never missed a religious service, followed by her weekly volunteer group – only to now sit at home, showing no desire to go out and do the things she once loved? As adults grow older, it can be harder to maintain an active social life. What’s more, physical, emotional, and mental changes may cause your loved one to feel isolated, and may make them retreat even further inward.

If you’ve noticed that your loved one has stopped returning phone calls or emails, given up their hobbies, or started missing social appointments, it may be time to seek help, before this increased social isolation has a chance to cause other significant health problems, such as chronic illness, dementia, or depression.

5.) “Am I Noticing Mental and Behavioral Changes in My Loved One?”

Has your older loved one seemed to change recently, particularly in the way they behave, speak or think? Do they seem confused, or suffer consistent lapses in memory? Are they experiencing mood swings? Do they seem aimless, or restless? Do they get angry or abusive? Are they having difficulty speaking, and seem to constantly repeat or halt their speech mid-sentence?

These are important things to note. Many of these signs might just indicate that your parent could be developing Alzheimer’s or dementia, or suffering from depression or anxiety problems. In other cases, they may be signs that your parent is feeling bored, anxious, or stressed about something – perhaps their current living situation.

Beyond seeking out medical help, one of the most important steps you can take for an older loved one experiencing mood swings and memory loss is to support them with a companion, who can help them navigate their daily schedule, help with chores and housekeeping, and assist your loved one in remembering their medications.

“Am I Ready to Ask for Help?”

Does your parent seem ready for additional help? Then it may be time to get in touch with Companions for Seniors.

At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the safety of their own home by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships. We believe that aging in place offers seniors substantial emotional and physical benefits, while also helping save money and time compared to expensive, institutional care.

We are locally owned and operated in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs. 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.