As your parents get older, how can you be sure they’re taking care of themselves and staying healthy? When you visit your aging parents, start by considering these questions:
1. Are your parents able to take care of themselves?
Pay attention to your aging parents’ appearance. Failure to keep up with daily routines — such as bathing and brushing teeth — could indicate dementia, depression, or physical impairments.
Also, pay attention to your aging parents’ home. Are the lights working? Is the heat on? Is the yard overgrown?
Any changes in the way your parents do things around the house could provide clues to their health. For example, scorched pots could mean your aging parents are forgetting about food cooking on the stove. Issues such as failing to pay bills, having problems shopping, and neglecting housework also might be signs of depression, dementia, or other concerns.
2. Are your aging parents experiencing memory loss?
Everyone forgets things from time to time. Modest memory problems are a fairly common part of aging, and sometimes medication side effects or such as underlying conditions contribute to memory loss.
There’s a difference, though, between normal changes in memory and the type of memory loss that makes it hard to do everyday things such as driving and shopping. Signs of this type of memory loss in aging parents might include such as:
- Still asking the same questions over and over again
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Not being able to follow instructions
- Becoming confused about time, people, and places
3. Are your aging parents safe in their home?
Take a look around your aging parents’ home, moreover, keeping an eye out for any red flags.
For instance, Do your aging parents have difficulty navigating a narrow stairway? Has either parent fallen recently? Are they able to read directions on medication containers? When asked, can your aging parents explain how they set up or take their medications?
4. Are your aging parents safe on the road?
Driving can be challenging for older adults. If your aging parents become confused while driving or you’re concerned about their ability to drive safely — especially if they have experienced a moving violation or an accident — it might be time to stop driving.
5. Have your parents lost weight?
Losing weight without trying could be a sign that something’s wrong. Weight loss could be related to many factors, such as:
- Difficulty cooking. Your aging parents might be having difficulty finding the energy such as cooking, grasping the necessary tools, or reading labels or directions on food products.
- Loss of taste or smell. Your parents might not be interested in eating if the food doesn’t taste or smell as good as it used to.
- Social issues. Your aging parents might have difficulty shopping or have financial concerns that limit buying groceries.
- Underlying conditions. Sometimes weight loss indicates a serious underlying condition, such as malnutrition, dementia, depression, or cancer.
6. Are your parents in good spirits?
Note your parents’ moods and ask how they’re feeling. A drastically different mood or outlook could be a sign of depression or other health concerns.
7. Are your parents still social?
Talk to your parents about their activities. Are they connecting with friends? Have they maintained interest in hobbies and other daily activities? Are they involved in organizations, clubs or faith-based communities?
If a parent gives up on being with others, it could be a sign of a problem.
8. Are your parents able to get around?
Pay attention to how your parents walk. Are they reluctant or unable to walk usual distances? Have they fallen recently? Would a cane or walker help?
Issues such as muscle weakness and joint pain can make it difficult to move around as well. If your parents are unsteady on their feet, then they might be at risk of falling — a major cause of disability among older adults.
Consider home care services. You could hire someone to clean the house and run errands. But discuss this with your loved one first.
A home health care aide could help with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and assistance with activities of daily living. Furthermore, having a home care aid would give everyone peace of mind and the safety of your loved ones.