Ageing is something that we are all coming to terms with every single day. When our parents, who have looked after us for most of our lives, are now advancing in age, we must consider how much help we are giving them. There comes a point in their lives where they need a little bit more assistance than ever, but they may turn the other cheek and say they are doing okay, but there is something going on beneath the surface. It is so important for you to recognise some key changes. Here are some key questions that could point you towards the realisation they need more help than ever before.
Are There Changes in Their Appearance?
Their general appearance is a major concern, especially if they are usually prim and proper and pay attention to their appearance. As we must recognise the importance of any daily routine, from getting ready in the morning to eating well, there are many red flags that you should address.
Signs of Weight Loss
If there are signs they are not eating well, this could be down to them being unable to do grocery shopping, preparing food, or even chewing and swallowing.
Is There Any Noticeable Odour?
If you pay a visit to your parents’ home regularly, is there any strong odour that hits you as soon as you step in the door? If there is any recognisable odour, this could indicate they are having issues bathing themselves, or if the smell is particularly strong, such as urine, they may develop urinary incontinence.
Pay Attention to Their Clothes and Hair
If the clothes do not look neat and clean, they may have difficulty ironing, doing the laundry, and mending their clothes. If their hair is looking dirty, this could be an indicator they are experiencing struggles with their personal hygiene.
Look for Any Physical Marks
If there are any bruises on their skin, this may arise from unsteadiness or falls. Burns on their skin, especially around the wrists and arms, could indicate they are experiencing issues with cooking.
Are They Becoming Forgetful?
Memory problems are a standard part of ageing. It is essential to differentiate between forgetfulness and severe changes in their memory. Everybody forgets things now and again, and there can be underlying conditions or side effects from medication that contribute to memory loss. But when there is a significant type of memory loss, it will impact their ability to do everyday tasks, such as shopping or driving. Some key points to look out for include the following:
Becoming Lost in Familiar Places
If you take your parents out shopping, and they easily become confused or irritable because they have lost their bearings, this could be a sign of age-related cognitive decline.
Asking the Same Questions Repeatedly
When they ask about a friend or check that you have done something, it is important to note how regularly this occurs.
If they become confused and mix up certain people, times, and places, this is a major red flag.
Forgetting Key Appointments
This is another key sign. If they are missing important medical appointments, or are forgetting to pick up their prescriptions or medications it’s important to address this.
Do You Notice Any Psychological Changes?
When we notice that our loved ones are becoming more forgetful, it may take a while to amass a certain amount of evidence to show they are experiencing any form of cognitive decline. It is also important to look at some psychological changes:
Their General Demeanour
If you recognise they are not the same person they were, and appear demotivated, or if their general demeanour has changed significantly over the last few months, this could be a sign of depression or other health concerns. It is important to make a note of your parent’s mood and ask them how they are feeling.
Are They Sleeping a Lot During the Day?
One of the key signs of depression is extreme lethargy or fatigue. It’s crucial to address if this is a side effect of medication that they are taking, or if it is a genuine dip in mood. If they are sleeping a lot during the day, this can be a sign that they are not motivated and are experiencing depression or low mood.
Are They Agitated?
If they appear frustrated, especially if you are asking them many questions about their day and if they’ve had food, their noticeable mood swings could be a sign that they need more support. Mood swings or agitation can come from frustration that they are not able to do the things as well as they did before, or could come from something simpler, such as being hungry.
Sometimes, we may want to broach these issues but they will be defensive. If you experience any of these psychological changes, it is important to be as open with them as possible if you have any concerns. However, if they are defensive, it may prove more difficult to get through to them. However, it is important to be persistent, and also try your best not to bring your emotions into it. When they are our parents, we can be too close to them, which means that there is a clash between parent and child.
Are There Any Changes in Their Home?
You are more than aware of the way your parents will look after their home. You will recognise if there are any significant changes. Here are some of the things to consider:
General Lack of Cleanliness and Tidiness
It is crucial to be aware of your parent’s standards of tidiness and cleanliness and if these standards have slipped recently. Look around the house, but also the garden. See if the garden has changed significantly, or the home feels different or unrecognisable, for example, weeds growing, and garbage piling up outside.
Broken Appliances and Fixtures
Are important items broken? For example, smoke alarms, and lightbulbs. Have they stopped cooking because the appliances do not work?
Is There Out of Date Food in the Cupboards and Fridge?
If you see items past their sell-by date still in the fridge, this could be a sign that they do not have the energy or the ability to make a meal for themselves.
Is Medication Still Intact in the Packets?
If there are bottles of prescription pills in the medicine cabinets and are still full, this could be a sign they are forgetting to take them, or may not have the strength to open the bottle. When you ask them, can your parents explain how they set up and take their medication?
Postage Piling Up
If there is a pile of unopened mail, and letters from the same utility companies demanding a final payment, or bills being paid late, as well as messages from collection companies, these could be extreme red flags.
Are Your Parents Engaged Socially?
Social interaction is understandably important as we get older. When visiting your parents, ask them about their recent activities. If they have previously shown interest in hobbies and activities, are they maintaining these? If they have lost interest in their hobbies and activities, this could point to signs of isolation.
If they are displaying a general lack of interest and withdrawal, the signs of loneliness and isolation can point towards a deeper issue, especially if they were an extrovert. It is important to recognise if your parent is an introvert or an extrovert and if they need time away to recharge their batteries.
Withdrawal could be a sign that they need to recalibrate for the sake of their mental health, but if they are displaying any signs of isolation, including poor eating habits, lack of personal hygiene, and a lot of clutter in the home, you may need to address this issue as soon as possible.
Are Your Parents Able to Get Around?
Finally, a lack of mobility is a key sign, whether it’s in regards to them not driving as much as they used to, and there are signs of damage to the car, they are reluctant to walk distance, this could point to issues like muscle weakness or joint pain. If they are unsteady on their feet, this may point to a risk of falling.
How Can We Take Action?
If you notice any signs that your parents need more help than ever, it is important to realise there are many steps you can take:
- Firstly, talk to your parents and share your concerns. This could motivate them to see a professional or make other changes, such as getting extra help at home through professional caregivers or close friends.
- Address their safety issues. If you want to make your parents safer in their home, you should plan to address safety problems in the home, for example, handrails in the bathroom or a lift to support them in and out of the bath. If your parents are not able to drive, you could suggest taking the bus or hiring a driver.
- Encourage regular check-ups. If you have concerns about your parent’s mood, memory, or are displaying signs of weight loss, a visit to the doctor and follow-up visits may shed some light on the subject.
Parents would always admit that they need help, others may fail to recognise they need support. It is important for us to make sure our parents understand their abilities, and that it’s not about us forcing them into giving up their home, but the fact is that we all need some additional help from time to time.