How to Notice Signs.
How to Know When It’s Time to Make Decisions.
Signs to Look for On Your Own …
Accidents and close calls.
Did Daddy have a car accident? Did Mama fall? Unfortunately, the odds rise that these types of situations will occur with aging.
Weight Loss. Weight Gain.
Give mama or daddy a big hug the next time you see them. Touch can give clues if there are weight gain or weight loss issues to address. Notice how their clothes fit. Are they loose? Has Daddy added notches to his belt? Sometimes, medical conditions cause weight loss. Sometimes financial conditions cause them, and a parent can eat less fresh food – opting for frozen dinners, or skipping meals all together. Sometimes difficulties arise with dementia, depression, cancer and diabetes.
Recovery after illness or hospitalization.
Did your parent require inpatient or outpatient therapy or rehabilitation? What systems were put in place to transition them back to living independently? Something as seemingly minor as a cold or flu is important to track. Did your parent get treatment? Or did a cold develop into bronchitis?
Noticeable body odor.
Breathe in while you hug. If you smell a strange odor, that can be a sign that your loved one has slacked off in hygiene habits.
Has their social circle become broken?
Look for changes. Does Dad still play bid whist or dominoes with his buddies? Has Mom stopped attending church regularly? Given up on hobbies and craft projects that used to keep them busy and bring them joy? Have they lost their close friends, and “shrunken” their involvement and become a “hermit”?
Are they homebound?
This typically begins when they lose their ability to drive and stay independent. While it is often necessary for safety sake – the downside is that it can lead to an emotionally unhealthy, isolating, and solitary lifestyle.
How are they managing money matters?
Be nosy. It’s necessary. Keep an eye out for stacks of mail – unopened. Scan the envelopes. If you see lots of mail from the bank, insurance company, and mortgage company – this is a sign that bills, insurance and important financial matters are at risk. And most importantly – diminished mental and cognitive capabilities, or depression.
Check out the kitchen – from the frig to the oven and cupboards.
You can learn much. Are stale or expired foods in the refrigerator? Look at expiration dates. Is last night’s dinner plate inside the oven? Does s/he stockpile? Do you see 5 bottles of ketchup? More boxes of cereal than needed? This can show signs of dementia as well as money concerns. Test and try appliances. Make sure that the microwave, toaster oven and other electric devices are operating safely. This includes inspecting knobs and dials for signs of charring. It could be an indication of prior kitchen or electrical fires.
Check other rooms in the home.
Many times, a parent will keep “public” rooms like the living room and kitchen nice and tidy. But they will neglect their bedroom or bathroom. This will be a tell-tale sign of your parent’s ability to keep up with daily living (ADL) tasks. They just might not have the energy required. It might be time to find help for housekeeping tasks.
Check the outside of the home.
Is the yard maintained? Are shingles hanging? Are the downspouts and gutters clean? Can this be “cured” as a family DIY project with siblings and children? Do you need to contract services for exterior maintenance?
Go for a drive – with Mama or Daddy behind the wheel.
If your parent is still driving, ask them to drive you to the store … to a fast food drive-thru for sandwiches … somewhere close. As you approach the car, inspect for nicks or dents. Pay attention to their physical capability to enter the car. Does it take lots of effort and time? Do they remember to put on their seat belt? Do they follow standard driver safety procedures? Do they turn off the radio or avoid conversation while driving? That can actually be a form of “self-policing.” But it is also a sign that they are not as safe and sound as desired behind the wheel as need be. They could put themselves and the lives of others at risk.
ADLs and IADLs. What they are and why they are important.
Geriatric experts – including doctors and social workers – provide functional assessment tests known as Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). This type of testing is one way to get an expert opinion and assessment. Be sure to check your local community social service agencies to find resources for assistance. Time is of the essence to keep mom and dad healthy and safe!