How to Determine When You Should Step In to Help an Elderly Parent
Getting older is one of the hardest things humans go through, both as seniors and as their caretakers. Aging poses several physical changes and mental health problems that make it challenging to determine when your loved ones need a little help. Check out the warning signs below to help you decide when to step in to help an elderly parent or grandparent. Avoiding these signs can be detrimental to their health, so be sure to take action quickly if you see any of these symptoms in your loved ones:
Warning Signs Your Loved One May Need Help
There are several things you can look out for when it comes to your loved one's freedom and independence. Many of these symptoms are directly caused by physical or mental illnesses (such as depression and dementia) and require medical attention and regular action to help keep your loved one safe. Here are a few things to be on the lookout for:
Personal Hygiene: Personal hygiene is a big one and often directly relates to depression and mental health conditions. Note any change in personal hygiene, including dirty clothes, body odor, bad breath, neglected nails, and teeth, or sores on the skin. This is the number one sign that something deeper is going on.
Living in messy, cluttered conditions: Clutter is more than a sign of forgetfulness. It often relates to depression as well, and it can pose a serious threat to safety. Piles of forgotten newspapers are easy to trip over, resulting in dangerous falls. If your elderly loved ones allow too much clutter to build up, it may be a sign that they need help at home.
Mood changes and inappropriate behaviors: Mood swings can be caused by a ton of different things. If your loved one begins acting out of character in ways like being unusually loud, quiet, paranoid, or agitated, be sure to document them and bring it up at the next doctor's appointment.
Financial troubles: It's easy to begin mishandling personal finances as an elderly adult. Be on the lookout for unpaid bills and unusual purchases and confront your loved one. If they can't manage them on their own, you or a financial adviser can help!
Memory loss, confusion, and disorientation: Forgetfulness offers a wide range of signs and symptoms including unopened mail, missing appointments, putting things in the wrong place, and not filling prescriptions. Forgetting is something we all do, but forgetfulness becomes dangerous when it gets in the way of their quality of life. If you start noticing forgetfulness, be sure to start checking in more often and take note of any inconsistencies to report to their doctor.
Weight loss: If your loved one starts losing weight without the exercise or active lifestyle, be sure to confront them about their diet and eating routines so you can find a way to help them. Noticeable weight loss can be caused by appetite loss, difficulty cooking, and simply forgetting to eat.
Accidental injuries: Accidents are possible due to the general weakness that comes with age. However, if you've noticed an increase in bruises, burns, and other physical injuries, it may be cause for concern. Some accidents are caused by forgetfulness, while others can be caused by misuse of alcohol or prescription medications. Be sure to talk to your loved one if you notice any of these signs, or intervene by bringing it directly to their physician.
Helping Mom and Dad from a distance
If you've noticed a few of these warning signs, but you're still not sure if you need to intervene yet, be sure to make yourself more available to check-in with your loved one in person. Meeting in person makes it possible to assess the situation and ensure that everything is okay regularly. If you don't live near your loved one but still want to check-in, you can always rely on their friends, neighbors, and local family members to give you feedback on their well-being. Another great option is to utilize in-home help a few days a week if you have the means. A caretaker can make sure your loved one is regularly eating, paying bills on time, and taking their medications. No matter what you choose, be sure to work with your loved one and their primary doctor to help them continue living a safe, healthy life.
How to help a loved one with warning signs to age in place
Just because your loved one is displaying some of the warning signs above doesn't mean they can't continue to live freely and independently. With a little help from good people and smart technology, seniors can stay in their homes longer than ever before. If your loved one lives alone, the first step is purchasing a medical alert device or PERS system to help them call for help in an emergency, such as a fall, stroke, or other accident. PERS devices can be pressed in an emergency and connect to emergency responders, friends, family, or other caretakers. Best of all, they can be mounted in high-risk areas of the home, such as the bathroom or staircase, to make sure that your loved one can still call for help after an accident even if they aren't wearing their device.
Other technologies that make it possible for seniors with warning signs to stay at home include things like bidets, social engagement tools, walk-in tubs, handrails and guards, smart lighting, and medication dispensers. You can also use nanny-cams, security systems, and other sensors to prevent accidents and monitor your loved one. Overall, when you combine a medical alert system with in-home care, your loved one can stay safe at home while also drastically improving their quality of life.