How To Detect Problems With Your Parents’ Health Or Well-Being
Whether you are a long-distance caregiver or live in the same neighborhood as your parents, it can be difficult to detect changes in their health or well-being. In some cases, the changes come on slowly, making it hard to notice until one day, you realize your parents suddenly aren’t well.
It can be especially hard for local family caregivers to see gradual changes. Similar to noticing gradual weight loss in someone you see regularly, you may not catch that your aging parent has lost interest in activities or that they seem to be forgetting things more and more until the change is major. It sometimes takes a visit from a long-distance family member to catch these changes.
I worked with many families who had both long-distance and local siblings. It was always interesting to see how much more the long-distance siblings noticed, since they had more time between visits so changes to health and wellbeing seemed more drastic, rather than gradual.
There were two sisters who were not on the same page about their father’s well-being. The local sister saw nothing wrong with her father’s balance and gait because he had been walking like that for some time. The sister who visits a few times a year from Spain was shocked by how much her father had declined and insisted on a life alert system and that his driving service walk him to his apartment, rather than leave him in the garage, which was his preference. They had to work with their dad to come to a happy medium that respected his independence, yet kept him safe.
Signs An Aging Parent May Be Struggling
Here are some changes you should keep an eye out for, whether you live nearby or across the country.
- Depression: While depression can be common in older adults, there are ways to combat depression. If you notice slight changes such as a loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed or feelings of guilt, consider addressing these concerns with your parent or their physician.
- Increase in Falls: Is your aging parent falling more frequently? If you’ve already addressed fall risks in the home, it could be due to a medical condition or their medication. Speak with their doctor and consider fall prevention aides.
- Loneliness: Has your parent recently lost a close friend, moved away from their neighborhood or stopped driving? They could be lonely, which can lead to physical and emotional health problems.
- Unsafe Driving: Are you noticing new dings or dents on your parents’ car? Are they anxious about getting behind the wheel? Do they have limited mobility or hearing loss? These could be signs that they need to turn over the keys. Help them understand the dangers of unsafe driving and find solutions to keep them independent and active.
- Elder Abuse: Is there someone who is getting abnormally close to your loved one or who is trying to keep family members away from your parent? They may be committing elder abuse. Trust your gut and get informed. Elder Abuse isn’t just physical abuse.
- Malnutrition: Did you know that many seniors suffer from malnutrition? Help your parents remain proper nutrition by stocking them up with easy healthy snacks and ensuring healthy meals are accessible to them.
- Alzheimer’s Disease: Are you noticing your parent isn’t just forgetting little details, but significant facts such as how to get home from the grocery store or trouble following simple directions? There is a difference between general cognitive decline and dementia. Don’t ignore the signs.
Don’t dismiss changes to health and well-being. With some tweaks or discussions with a doctor, they can probably be rectified, but if you let something like malnutrition or financial fraud go on for too long, it can have a catastrophic effect.