As your aging loved one moves through life, there are a number of challenges which often accompany the journey. Often, their family lives a long distance away or simply fails to notice gradual changes which creep in over time. Some changes are normal and healthy, while others could be warning signs which need to be addressed. They could require some simple adjustments, or they could indicate a need for an in-home caregiver. Let us take a look at some of the more common signs.
The house is not tidy
This could be due to a loss of interest or energy. This is particularly concerning if they are normally neat and organized. It may also be accompanied by a decline in personal hygiene.
Food in the refrigerator goes uneaten or is spoiled
The effort to shop, cook, and clean becomes overwhelming. They might be eating just enough to maintain weight, but are not eating nutritional meals. Actually losing weight would leave little doubt if they are otherwise healthy.
Mail and bills are gathering dust
This could show a lack of interest or depression. Dealing with one’s mail should not require very much energy, so this can be a troubling sign.
Using stairs becoming difficult
Complaints of dizziness or unsteadiness on their feet may become evident. This is particularly troubling since a severe injury resulting from a fall could occur.
They may act in ways completely out-of-character to them. This could be a sign of mental decline or confusion. If they are having lapses in concentration, it could be dangerous if they forget the stove is on, for example. You might look for signs of scorching on the bottom of pots and pans. This could indicate they have previously forgotten something is cooking on the stove.
Your loved one’s friends may have noticed changes in their behavior. You might engage them in conversation and casually mention the subject. They may see them more day-to-day than you, or something may have escaped your notice which is apparent to them.
You can establish a baseline of behavior by spending quality time with them. If there are any sudden departures from this behavior, you might look further into it. It could be nothing, or it could indicate a decline in functioning that needs to be addressed.
If you suspect your aging loved one is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, you should consider talking to their doctor before confronting them. They have expertise in this area and can tell you if your concerns are valid and if your loved one might benefit from tests.
The yard is not mowed. The garden, if they had one, is uncared for. Many plants are dead and dying. Shrubs and trees are not pruned. The area just shows a general attitude of neglect.
Forgetting to take medication
This could be simple forgetfulness that we all experience occasionally. It could also be something more serious if it happens frequently. Not only would it show some signs of mental decline or dementia, but can be very dangerous in and of itself. You might talk with them to see if they are truly forgetting to take the medication or maybe they are doing it on purpose. Their medication might need adjusting if it causes objectionable side effects.
As you consider the signs that your loved one might require home care, remember to always treat them with dignity and respect. After all, it will not be long before you will be in their shoes as well.