Have you had some concerns about your elderly parent’s wellbeing but don’t know what is normal and what isn’t? Here is a quick guide to evaluating some of the common concerns we have about our aging parents.
Are They Depressed or Lonely?
If they have lost a spouse, friends or relatives, they may experience depression or loneliness, which is a common response to losing someone. But how can you tell if it is a normal, temporary condition, or if it is something deeper that can affect their health and overall wellbeing?
Here are common signs of depression:
- They retreat from family or friends and no longer participate in normal social activities.
- They have lost interest in hobbies or activities that brought them joy in the past.
- They experience weight loss or loss of appetite.
- The experience sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, oversleeping or daytime sleeping.
- They experience a loss of self-worth and are concerned about being a burden.
- There is a new fixation on death or they have suicidal thoughts.
- They have unexplained or aggravated aches or pains.
- They experience increased anxiety.
- They experience increased irritability, lack of motivation and energy.
If you notice any of the symptoms above, or out of character behavior, you should consult their general practitioner. There are a number of ways to treat depression that can help your parent feel better. If you are concerned about loneliness, here are some tactics to combat loneliness. If your parent has limited mobility or difficulty with transportation, you can also help them get set up online so that they can connect online, even if they can’t leave the house.
Are They Malnourished?
One thing I noticed in working with seniors is that many of the seniors I knew did not eat much. Some would only eat once a day, while others would subsist on a can of soup and a pastry. I had a gentleman who said he ate one meal a day, at lunch. I asked if he ate anything in the morning or before bed and he said he preferred not to eat in the morning and he ate ice scream for dinner. Now, he was 88 years old and relatively healthy, so part of me thinks, hey, more power to him. However, it is important to have a healthy diet to maintain your health.
Here are signs that a senior is malnourished:
- Watch for weight loss or how clothing fits.
- Look for poor wound healing, easy bruising and dental problems.
- They experience a lack of energy or difficulty concentrating.
- They experience frequent infections or take a long time to recover from infection.
- They have difficulty keeping warm.
In addition to nutrition problems, you should also keep an eye out for dehydration. Many seniors don’t drink enough water, which can lead to dizziness or other health concerns. If you notice any of the above symptoms, you can speak to their doctor about implementing proper nutrition. You can also implement some of my healthy eating shortcuts.
Here are some additional ways to help them improve their diet at home:
- Buy a water bottle that has ounces marked and encourage them to drink a certain amount of water each day.
- Provide assistance (either hired or by a family member) with meal preparation. Sometimes meal prep can be difficult for a senior with arthritis so they opt to eat easier foods that may not provide the same nutritional value.
- If your parent is unable to prepare meals, enlist a meal delivery service to bring at least one meal into their home a day. If they are able to go to a senior center, you can set them up with the on-site lunch program, which can also help combat loneliness.
- Provide simple meal or snack options such as fruit, yogurt, cheese sticks, granola bars and smoothies to help them increase their fruit and vegetable intake.
How is Their Physical Condition?
Are you noticing your parent is having a difficult time getting around the house? With our bodies, it really is use it or lose it. Encourage your parent to get some form of exercise to maintain their muscle tone.
Here are some options:
- Join an exercise class at their local senior center. These classes are geared towards seniors so they can be modified based on your parent’s ability.
- Join a walking group, or enlist someone to walk with them safely.
- Take part in a balance class, either through a senior center or at a physical therapy practice.
- Search YouTube for exercise videos that are senior friendly. There are several chair exercise videos to choose from.
Sometimes, when we are in the weeds, we don’t see everything that is happening. Taking a step back to check in on your parent’s wellbeing can help them live a healthier life.