As the holidays approach many families will be gathering to celebrate and enjoy time together. This is often a time of joy and happiness; however, for those with aging parents, it can be a time of concern. For several months your loved one may have been telling you that everything was fine, but as you spend extended periods of time together you begin to realize that ‘fine’ may mean two different things.
“Sometimes you’re shocked when you visit,” says Dr. Michael Perskin, a geriatrician at NYU Langone Health. “You walk into a parent’s house and the bathrooms are dirty or there’s no food in the refrigerator. That represents a change.”
Why did they say they were fine?
There are many reasons that your loved one may not have revealed that they were in need of additional help. Often this can be because the process has been a slow one and they have not noticed the gradual decline in their abilities or changes in self-care. Often there are also “easy explanations” for many of the problems that have occurred. Other times it may be that they are concerned that they will become a burden on their family members.
The onus, then, is often on family members to determine if an older adult is having problems. U.S. News and World Report created a red flag list to watch for when visiting your older parent or family member. Consider it a red flag if:
- Is forgetting things. Is he or she missing appointments or forgetting where the car is parked? This happens to everyone once in a while. If it’s chronic, it could signal cognitive change.
- Has a car that’s dented, dinged or missing side mirrors. These can all indicate trouble driving. “Sometimes it’s due to cognition, but sometimes it’s due to neck arthritis. They can’t turn around,” Perskin explains.
- Isn’t traveling anymore. “Mom might not tell you if she dings the car, but she’ll tell you she doesn’t drive at night or doesn’t go to church anymore. Or if she always comes for your birthday and now she can’t, maybe it’s because traveling alone is too hard,” Perskin says.
- Has loose clothing. “Is the parent eating? Is it due to a medical condition and malnutrition, or did the parent forget to eat?” Perskin asks. “Or maybe the parent can’t grocery shop anymore.”
- Has spoiled food in the fridge. “Maybe there’s a visual problem or mild cognitive impairment or a problem with a sense of smell,” Perskin suggests.
- Is withdrawing from activities. “If normally they attended activities and suddenly they start to isolate more, it indicates they’ve forgotten or they can’t keep up with conversations or successfully do the activities. They may have memory issues,” Falk says. It can also be a sign of hearing loss.
- Has a messy house. “It could be due to poor memory or poor vision, or maybe you can’t do physically what you used to,” Falk says. “Look and see if the level of tidiness or cleanliness changed significantly,” Perskin suggests.
- Has an unkempt appearance. Poor hygiene may be a sign of cognition problems. “People forget to clean themselves. Their hair may not be combed or washed,” Falk says. “But maybe it’s just that it’s physically difficult for someone to get dressed.”
- Holds onto furniture when walking around the house. “That’s a sign of mobility problems,” Falk points out.
- Has unexplained bruising. This is important because bruising can indicate falls due to balance and mobility problems.
- Has unpaid or overpaid bills. It may be due to a loss of executive function from cognition changes. “It’s the loss of executive function that really limits our ability to function as independent adults,” Perskin says.
- Is not taking medications. “Look at the date on the pill bottles, and look inside. Are there too many pills left, or are there not enough?” Falk asks.
In-home attendant care provides a variety of standard services to make your life a little easier. Beyond these standard services, each client is provided with a customized plan of care to ensure that your specific needs are being met at the highest level.
Services plans typically include:
- Companionship Care
- Light Housekeeping
- Personal Hygiene Assistance
Additional services that may be included in your plan of care at no additional cost may include:
- Transfer Services (bed to wheelchair, chair to bed, etc.)
- Restroom Assistance
- Dressing Assistance
- Meal Preparation and Meal Encouragement
- Feeding Assistance
- Exercise Plan encouragement (at the direction of a physician)
If you find yourself, a friend, or a family member in need of additional support this season, please call 817-564-2845 and speak with Maggie Niederhauser.