The holidays are a wonderful time to get together with those you love. If you are a long-distance family member of an older loved one, this might be the first time in months for you to see how they are doing. Stacks of unpaid bills or a change in appearance could be indicators that a more supportive senior living lifestyle such as that offered at Clearwater Living could be a good option. Knowing the warning signs when visiting aging parents can help you make choices that could enhance the safety, health, and quality of life of those you care so much about.
What to look for: warning signs when visiting aging parents
An unkempt house. Piles of unopened mail, magazines and papers can be red flags that something is amiss. Other signs can be dirty dishes in the sink. Undone laundry. Clutter everywhere. Housework and other domestic duties may have become too difficult or physically painful for your Mom or Dad. They also may not realize how messy—and potentially dangerous—their home has become.
Nutrition. Getting proper nutrition can be difficult for seniors. Holiday visits are a way to peek inside the pantry. Is it empty? Are there packages of stale food? What’s in the refrigerator? It’s possible your loved one is experiencing a loss of taste or smell, so preparing meals isn’t a priority.
Safety. An unsteady gait or signs there have been falls are important warning signs when visiting aging parents. This can imply problems with joints or muscles, or something more serious. Poor lighting in a home, slippery throw rugs, rickety stairs, and piles of items in the walkways can pose serious hazards.
Damaged car or garage. Check for any red flags such as new dents or scratches on the car, or signs that the garage has been hit. Is the car clean? Are they able to safely drive? What about driving after dark? Your parents may be reluctant to discuss driving problems for fear of losing their independence. This might provide an opportunity to mention how a supportive lifestyle like a senior living community can provide transportation to shopping and appointments, removing that stress.
Yard and garden. Looking for warning signs when visiting aging parents includes going outside. Does it look like the lawn and garden are being maintained? Too many weeds, tools not stored, things out of place? If your mom or dad was an avid gardener, a neglected yard can be a red flag that living in a setting with no maintenance requirements might be preferable.
Medical concerns. Have a chat with your parents to determine if they are keeping up with their medications and seeing their physicians regularly. Do they seem in good health, or do they seem excessively tired? Are they getting enough sleep? Pay attention to whether Mom or Dad has slipped into the role of caregiver and might be neglecting their own health.
Physical. New bruises or scars are red flags that should not be ignored. Walk with your parents and observe how well they move. Even in the home, if they have begun to “chair walk”—holding on to furniture to get through a room—this can be an indicator of a loss of mobility. So can choosing to stay on the couch all day rather than engaging in longtime favorite pastimes.
Grooming habits. Of all the warning signs when visiting aging parents, this can be the most obvious, especially if they have always been fastidious about their appearance. Unclean clothes can indicate problems doing the laundry. Not having a haircut can be tied to lack of mobility. Other red flags can be unused toothpaste. Poor bathing habits. Bedding has not been changed in a long time. Any of these could also be indicators of social isolation or depression.
Challenges with conversation. Not engaging in conversation could be signs of hearing or eyesight loss. If they have problems concentrating, seem confused or forgetful, repeat themselves, or are unaware of everyday news and events, it may be signs of cognitive decline. Forgetfulness is not necessarily a sign of cognitive decline, but when memory loss makes everyday tasks difficult or even dangerous, it could be time to consider a lifestyle with 24/7 care and assistance.
What to do when you see warning signs
A holiday visit could be the perfect time to start the conversation about how a supportive senior living lifestyle such as that found at Clearwater Living could be the right choice.
Listen to your parents’ concerns and involve other family members in the discussion. If possible, you might plan an in-person or virtual visit to an independent or assisted living community to get a feel for what life is like there.
Letting your aging parents know how much you care and giving them the opportunity to discuss their concerns could be an important first step to enhancing their quality of life.
If you are an older adult working on your retirement plan or an adult child helping a parent do so, we can help. Learn more about which options could be the best fit for your family with this quick 4-5 minute survey or find the Clearwater Living senior community nearest you and call us today to set up a visit.