Many children grow up under the impression that their parents are some kind of real-life superheroes. They know the answer to any question, can make any hurt feel better, and possess limitless energy to tend to their kids’ every need. As they grew old enough to adopt adult responsibilities of their own, children take on a more realistic perspective of parental abilities; however, many still find reassurance in their perception of their parents’ strength and wisdom.
If you are an adult child of an aging parent or parents, you may have noticed with some concern that your parents can’t do everything they used to. While it can be painful to see, it is important both to be realistic and to communicate openly with your parents about their needs. Some people are able to live quite independently well into their senior years, while others may need additional assistance or may even need to consider relocating to an assisted living facility.
If you live close enough to your parents to make frequent visits, it is naturally much easier to keep well informed about their day to day needs. It becomes much more challenging to do this if you are only able to see them occasionally, maybe on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter. These visits can be an excellent opportunity to catch up and to make some important observations that may give you much needed insight into your parents’ situation. Here are some signs to watch for that may indicate that they are no longer able to live as independently as before.
Look For Physical Signs
- Weight loss or gain. Although it could be due to a specific illness, significant weight loss could also mean that shopping or preparing food is becoming an issue. Weight gain could be a symptom of diabetes or dementia (they don’t remember eating, so they eat some more). It could also indicate increased reliance on unhealthy, pre-packaged foods.
- Frailty. Increasing frailty is a natural part of aging, but significant difficulty getting in or out of a chair or extreme unsteadiness could be a danger signal. Also, pay attention to any bruises or other injuries, especially if your parent seems reluctant to talk about them, as this could be a result of a fall.
- Odor. A “not so fresh” smell is a pretty good sign that bathing or doing laundry is becoming a problem.
- Neglect of personal appearance. If your once meticulously dressed mother looks like she has been wearing the same crusty t-shirt for a week straight or your formerly clean-shaven father is looking a little scruffy, it could be a sign that personal care is becoming difficult physically or that they are having trouble remembering how to care for themselves properly.
Assess the Food Situation
- Too little food. An empty refrigerator or pantry, or one that is full of expired food, is a sign that getting out to go shopping is becoming a problem.
- Too much food. Are there eight jars of mayonnaise in the cupboard, or maybe enough canned tomatoes to feed a small country? While this could mean that Mom or Dad can’t resist a good sale on mayonnaise or tomatoes, it could also be a sign of memory issues – they buy food they don’t need because they can’t keep track of what they already have.
- The wrong food. If you can’t find any fresh fruit or vegetables in the house, but the freezer is full of TV dinners, it may be that shopping frequently enough to keep perishable foods in the house is too difficult.
Notice the Condition of the Home
- Change in cleanliness. A little dust or a bed that hasn’t been made is probably no cause for alarm. However, thick dust, bathroom mold, cobwebs, or spills that have not been cleaned are not only unhealthy, they may be a sign of declining physical or mental health.
- Piled up mail. Piles of unopened mail, unopened bills, or letters from collection agencies could be a result of memory issues.
- Signs of fire. Look for charred knobs on the stove, signs of fire in pots and pans, or pot holders with burned edges.
- Neglect. Broken windows, clogged gutters, or other signs of disrepair could mean that the demands of keeping up with a home are becoming too much.
Other Things to Consider
- Plants and animals. Are any pets or houseplants being well-cared for, or do they show signs of neglect?
- Strange or inappropriate behavior. Certain behaviors, such as wearing clothing that is completely inappropriate for the weather, could be a sign of confusion.
- Forgetfulness. Are your parents having trouble remembering basic routines? Are they taking their medications properly?
- Dents or nicks in the car. You may not have a chance to observe them directly as they drive, but new dents in the car may indicate that driving is beginning to pose a problem.
If you feel that there is cause to be concerned about your parents’ safety, discuss it with them as soon as possible. While it may be awkward or emotional, it will also be the first step towards determining how much help they need in order to continue to live as safely and independently as they can.
Visit the Davis Community’s Assisted Living in Wilmington NC
If you or loved one are no longer capable of living a safe, independent lifestyle, then call the Davis Community today at 910-686-7195 or simply complete and submit our online information request form. We provide exceptional assisted living in Wilmington NC with a strong and supportive environment where your loved one will feel welcomed and part of an active community. Get to know the difference today – schedule a visit to the Davis Community!