Do you take care of your aging parents or are you planning to visit your aging parents over the holidays?
That’s great! Below you will find a checklist for caring for aging parents.
Be sure to look for warning signs of physical or mental health decline while caring for aging parents.
Sure, you must have been checking up on them every week through phone calls that always end with them assuring you that they’re doing great. But unfortunately, many aging parents won’t admit to their children that things have changed since they last visited and that lately, they’ve been facing difficulties performing basic, day-to-day activities.
They may be afraid to lose their sense of independence or perhaps they simply don’t want to add to their children’s worries. In such cases, a holiday visit is a great opportunity to observe your loved ones in-person for any warning signs.
It is important that when caring for aging parents, you keenly observe their living condition as well as their physical and mental health to make sure they aren’t giving you false assurance. They may look fine and it may seem that they’re managing everything quite well but you should look for any signs and clues to ensure that you’re better prepared for the future.
Here’s the ultimate ‘caring for aging parents’ checklist featuring the top 14 signs you should look for when visiting your aging parents over the holidays.
1. Look for Bounced Checks, Late Payment Notices, and Collection Calls
Bounced checks, late payment notices, and collection calls – these may be a sign that your aging parents are experiencing financial woes and they don’t want you to know about it. It may also indicate they’re suffering from memory loss or early dementia.
Be wary, as this might just be a small sign of the whole disorganization they have been struggling with lately.
2. Ill-maintained Household and Broken Appliances
Look around the house for any broken appliances, damaged furniture, or piles of clutter.
Do you see they haven’t been running maintenance checks or have failed to recognize the need for doing so?
It may be a sign of a physical or neurological problem. They probably have lost the energy to maintain the household and remove clutter or perhaps their deteriorating memory doesn’t allow them to clean the mess they create.
3. Unusual Mood Changes or Mood Swings
Make sure you spend sufficient time with your elderly parents on your visit to identify any signs of mood swings. Listen to them carefully and pay attention to their tone and emotions as they talk to you.
If within an hour, their mood shifts from being delighted to being irritated and then to being sad, it may be a red flag.
4. Dirty, Disorganized Living Area
The house that looked so clean and well-organized on your last visit is now a total mess. What does it mean?
Your aging loved ones may be facing problems with cleaning the house due to mobility issues. It is also possible that some spots are left dirty simply because they can’t see the dirt there. If you see many things scattered on the floor, it may be because they can’t bend as easily as they used to before.
Not to mention that these things increase their risk of tripping and injuring themselves as they walk around the house.
5. Confusion and Difficulty Performing Habitual Tasks
Do you notice your aging parents facing difficulty or acting uncertain when performing familiar tasks?
It may be a sign of a major decline in their physical or mental health. While mobility issues may come in the way of daily activities, it’s also possible that they have entirely forgotten how to do something that they have always done on their own.
6. Changes in Eating Habits
When visiting aging loved ones over the holidays, make sure you check their kitchen and refrigerator for the quantity and quality of food stored. Do you see fresh fruits and vegetables in there? Does it seem that they’ve been eating proper, healthy meals?
Don’t hesitate to discuss their eating habits. Try to find out if they’ve been consuming boxed meals a little too often lately. Also, note if they’ve lost or gained a considerable amount of weight since your last visit.
Sudden, unexplained weight loss may indicate that they’ve been skipping meals or failing to meet their daily dietary requirements while a spike in their weight may be a sign of unhealthy eating or dementia. Oftentimes, elderly people repeat their meals over and over, forgetting that they’ve already eaten.
7. Forgetting to Take Medicines
Don’t forget to see if your aging parents have been taking proper doses of their medications. Not taking medications or taking more than the prescribed dosage are both major red flags.
If they don’t take their medicines on time, it will likely decline their health. Similarly, if they’re overdosing, it may result in some serious side effects.
It’s a great idea to set up weekly medication boxes for them to keep track of their daily dosages.
8. Impaired Driving
One of the best ways to assess the mental health of your aging loved ones is by asking them to take you out for a drive. See if the request makes them uncomfortable or nervous.
Before the ride begins, check if there are any dents or scratches on the car that wasn’t there when you last visited. See if they remember to fasten their seatbelt before starting the car.
While they’re driving, note if they easily get distracted or confused. Try to talk to them and see if they can multi-task.
9. Reluctant about Leaving the House
When you visit your aging parents over the holidays, suggest going out for a walk or a casual visit to a public place – and see how they react.
If they’re disinterested or reluctant to leave the house instead of being excited like the last time, it may be a sign of social withdrawal or bad physical health.
10. A Noticeable Decline in Mobility
You should pay close attention to how your aging parents walk and move around the house. If they’re keen on sitting or lying on the bed the entire time or are walking with an unusual gait, it may be a sign of joint or muscle pain or neurological problems.
If you notice they’re facing problems in maintaining their balance, they may be at risk of falling and injuring themselves.
You would want to consult with their doctor to consider options to ensure their safety, including mobility aids, physical therapy, and pain management exercises.
11. Inability to Make Sound Decisions
With a decline in mental health, your elderly loved ones may start to face difficulty in making decisions. They may lose their ability to evaluate a situation, identify the potential solutions, and weigh different options to reach a solid conclusion.
If you note any signs of cognitive decline, you should consider talking to a physician for their memory problems.
12. Low Overall Score on Cleanliness
When you meet your aging parents over the holidays, look for any changes in their personal grooming habits.
Are they wearing fresh clothes? Are their nails and hair clean as usual?
Look for any strange body odor that may indicate that they haven’t been taking care of themselves the way they used to. It is also possible that the thought of getting in the shower scares them of slipping and falling.
In addition to this, take a good look around the house to see if it meets the usual standards in terms of cleanliness and organization. Any changes in personal or residential cleanliness may be due to physical ailments or memory issues.
13. Unexplained Injuries or Bruises
Do you get the usual ‘I can walk and move just fine’ response every time you inquire about your aging loved ones’ mobility?
Unexplained injuries and bruises may tell you otherwise!
Look for any bumps, scratches, or bruises on their body that indicate that they’ve been injuring themselves due to balance and mobility issues.
14. Feelings of Loneliness or Depression
If your aging parents are not willing to get out of bed despite you insisting them, they may have built the habit of staying in alone. When you ask people in their circle about their routine, you may get to know that your aging parents no longer interact with anyone.
See if they’re no longer interested in activities that they used to enjoy in the past. They may not eat properly and spend most of the time of their day sulking, resulting in a noticeable weight loss.
All these signs may indicate that they’re depressed and lonely and need professional help.
What You Should Do Next
It’s crucial to understand that most of these changes are part and parcel of aging. However, what’s more, important is that you recognize the warning signs as per the ‘caring for aging parents’ checklist, take necessary steps to provide your loved ones with extra care, and devise a care plan.
And don’t forget to consider the legal aspect of this situation as well! Ideally, you should obtain important documents regarding your aging parents’ medical, financial, and estate information. Apart from this, you must have access to their social security number, insurance policies, driving license, and deed to their home.
Now, this may sound overwhelming and seem like a lot of complicated work, but with the help of an experienced elder law attorney, this can be a much smoother process. Consulting an elder law attorney can provide options enabling only enable your aging loved ones to live independently at their home with maximum safety and also give you the much-needed peace of mind while you’re away from them.
Paths Elder Law, an elder law attorney in the Kansas City, Missouri area that is here to help with the next step. Visit our website www.elderlawmo.com for great resources on the elder law process.