Assessing Your Aging Parents’ Needs: Signs to Look Out for Over the Holidays
The holiday season is an ideal time to speak to your parents about their needs, especially if you have a few moments alone together. This will allow you to determine if their current living situation is still appropriate. Here are a few red flags to look out for.
They appear depressed or less cheerful
It’s normal to feel a little nostalgic around the holidays, especially when the festive season reminds us of past times spent with friends and family, but those feelings shouldn’t be confused with more serious signs of depression.
Common signs of depression in seniors include a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, changes in sleeping or eating habits, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, increased irritability or agitation, low energy levels, and withdrawing from social activities.
They forget to use their adaptive devices
Pay attention if your parents are forgetting to use their cane, hearing aids, glasses, or other devices.
If these items are not used regularly, it can be a sign of cognitive decline. Cognitive decline can affect a person’s daily life and prevent them from doing activities that require more complex thinking and reasoning skills. In more serious cases, it can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
It is important for family members to take note of any changes in behavior or mental abilities and talk with their loved ones about it so they can get the help they need early on.
Their general appearance has changed
If you haven’t seen your parents in a while, you may be surprised to notice changes in their appearance brought on by the natural aging process. But if you see an unexpected change in the way they look and care for themselves, it can be a red flag.
Your loved one might be noticeably thinner or heavier than the last time you saw them, your mother’s normally brushed hair might be obviously uncared-for, or your usually clean-shaven dad may not notice that he hasn’t shaven in a long while. Changes in their appearance that are outside of their normal behavior can be cause for concern.
Their living arrangements look unclean or unkempt
No one likes to be judged by how clean their house is, but if your loved one’s home is visibly dirty or unkept when it is usually neater, it could be a sign they are having mobility issues or cognitive changes that should be addressed. Be on the lookout for stacks of unopened mail, piles of dirty laundry, or dirty dishes stacking up around the sink.
Their mobility has changed
When you don’t see your mom or dad for long periods of time, they will usually experience some natural decline in their mobility. If your visit with your parents lets you see that your once-spry mom is now struggling to get off of the couch or your dad can no longer go up and down the staircase without losing his breath, it may be time for a physical checkup.
Mobility changes can start out with small things, like fumbling with shoelaces or having a hard time reaching to higher shelves in the kitchen. According to Ardeshir Hashmi, M.D. of the Center for Geriatric Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, it is critical to “pick up clues early, before they start to impact day-to-day life in a significant way, so that healthcare professionals do something about them.”
Their recall abilities are weaker
The onset of dementia can be challenging to catch when your interactions with loved ones are infrequent. One way to check for cognitive changes is to finish out a long conversation with questions about what was just previously discussed.
If dinner-time chatter included details about an event you attended or how the grandchildren are doing in school, then asking them a few pointed questions about the details of the conversation at the end of dinner can provide a clue to their mental acuity. If your loved one has a hard time remembering details or doesn’t recall the conversations they just participated in, their mental and physical health may be declining faster than expected.
Noticing a change: when to act
Holiday visits should be a time to enjoy being with our loved ones – no one wants to be subjected to a line of questioning about their health.
Still, it is important to observe your parents in their daily activities and inquire about any difficulty they are having, whether physical, mental or emotional. If you notice changes in their behavior such as depression, confusion or forgetfulness, it may be time to consider additional help or a move to a safer living environment.
If you’re considering whether a senior living community could be the perfect support for you or your parents to live the highest quality of life, we hope you found these tips helpful.
We also invite you to visit one of our Ingleside communities. We believe it’s even easier to enjoy life with the benefits that we offer, including:
For information on Ingleside’s Westminster at Lake Ridge senior living community located in Lake Ridge, Virginia, please call (703) 420-7105 with questions or to schedule a personalized tour today.
For information on Ingleside at King Farm senior living community located in Rockville, Maryland, please call (240) 414-8557 with questions or to schedule a personalized tour today.
For information on Ingleside at Rock Creek senior living community located in Washington, DC, please call (202) 846-2651 with questions or to schedule a personalized tour today.