Your parents always made sure that you were taken care of while growing up, and now that they’re in their 70s the tables have turned. Both want to continue aging comfortably in place at home, but lately you’ve noticed that their independence may be in jeopardy. Mom is becoming more and more forgetful, and dad is having trouble getting around due to a heart condition and arthritis. You’ve been meaning to discuss some at-home assistance with them, but want to make sure they definitely need it first. What should you do? In order to determine if they need some help with their daily living activities, look for the following signs.
Mom and dad have both been “under the weather” recently, and you suspect they’re not eating right. When you hug your parents, do either one of them feel frail? Do they look thinner than you remember? In addition to these physical signs, here are some others to watch for:
- Cuts and bruises. These usually come from falls and accidents, although many times seniors deny they happened. Stairs and bathrooms can be dangerous places for the elderly, as one-in-three seniors experience in-home falls each year.
- Trouble getting around. Diminished mobility is part of the aging process, and can affect a senior’s ability to carry out normal daily living activities. Have you noticed mom or dad having trouble negotiating stairs, or up off the couch?
- Poor grooming and hygiene. Do your mom and dad look disheveled or unkept? Look for stained clothing, body odor, or other poor grooming signs, especially when they differ from how your parents normally look.
- Not socializing like before. Do your parents seem disinterested in socializing with their friends and family members like they used to? Are they blowing off important activities and even their doctor’s appointments? It could mean anything from driving issues to forgetfulness.
Are There Signs Around the Home?
Not keeping up with household chores is another sign that your parents could use an extra pair of hands. Cognitive impairment and diminished mobility interfere with housekeeping. Look for these indicators inside and outside their home:
- Dirty laundry piles. Seniors usually take pride in washing their clothes regularly.
- No food around. Are your parents stocking their fridge and pantry with healthy foods? A lack of good food could mean financial trouble, difficulties getting to the store, or just simply a lack of interest. And, that’s not good for their health and wellbeing.
- Unwashed dishes in the sink. Does your parents’ kitchen sink have stacks of dirty dishes? Are there filthy pots and pans decorating their countertops?
- Unopened mail. Piles of unopened mail lying around, especially ones with “past due” notices stamped on the outside, is a red flag. Those could be from forgetfulness, financial woes, or simple neglect.
- Carpet and upholstery stains. Are mom and dad ignoring ugly carpet or couch stains that would have been quickly cleaned up just a few years ago? Are those same stains still there when you come back?
- Bathroom or kitchen filth. When you use their bathroom, are you afraid to touch the toilet seat? When you open their refrigerator door, are you met by a disgusting odor that kills your appetite? These signs could indicate a more serious problem that they are hiding from you.
- The yard looks unkept. If your parents’ once pristine yard, flower beds and garden now look like something from a Wes Craven horror movie, it’s probably not a good sign.
- Damage to their car. When you’re in the garage, have you recently noticed a lot of suspicious dents and scratches on their car? Has dad stopped driving to the coffee shop to join his buddies like he’s done for years? These could indicate that it may be time to ask for their car keys.
Once your parents start exhibiting several of the above signs, it’s time to discuss some in-home caregiving assistance. Tell them how much you love them and want to honor their wishes to continue growing old comfortably at home, but if something doesn’t change, they may not be able to do so. In most cases, cooler heads will prevail, and they’ll agree to accept your offer.
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