What’s that old saying? Trouble comes in threes? When it comes to older loved ones, that number could be more like five or six!
Ignoring a little problem can turn into a huge one quickly with seniors. Take my mother. She’s one of the strongest people I know, yet when she ignored the subtle signs of a urinary tract infection it led to months of recovery. By the way, seniors rarely have much pain with a bladder or kidney infection like younger folks and it often causes memory problems that seem like dementia. She is on the mend but now knows to look for dark colored urine and continues to drink lots of fluids! She had to cut back on her beloved Pepsi which can dehydrate her.
It can happen so often. A senior might have trouble with incontinence which is embarrassing and lots of trouble. There are more clothes to wash and the person begins to just stay home. She gets less exercise and she drinks less water because she doesn’t want to soil her clothes. That is how a urinary tract infection can start. Dehydration is one of the top reasons an elder ends up in a hospital.
Winter can be worse for dehydration. While keeping our homes tolerably warm, we’re also drying out the air. In cooler weather, a lot of us drink less water which is always a problem that can lead to dehydration. What we can do is — put the kettle on. Make some caffeine-free tea. Put a pot of soup on. Both of these will add some moisture to the air and by consuming soups and decaf tea we’re getting more liquids into our diets.
Falling can be life threatening to a senior. If they’ve developed osteoporosis, it’s even worse. The fall from a ladder or just a slip down the stairs can land them right into the hospital. Broken bones heal much slower for seniors but almost as devastating is the fear that comes with a fall. Many seniors fear it so much they become inactive. Inactivity can lead to worse balance problems and often to isolation. That last one is the biggest indicator of morbidity!
Be aware of subtle changes in your elderly loved one. Have they started to neglect their personal hygiene? Are they not going anywhere? Check their kitchen. Is there adequate food in the house? Ask them what they had for their last meal. Are they neglecting their housekeeping? All these can be an indicator of memory problems or even health problems or both. If they’ve recovered from a fall, they might be afraid to take a shower for fear of falling. Any of these changes might signal it’s time to step in and delicately talk to them about it and take them for a checkup. Sometimes you have to just insist.
In the past few years I’ve had to become a lot more vocal with my parents. Once they hit 80, I had to step up and take care of things they were unable to do. Sometimes I’ve had to just make appointments for them to see the doctor and insist that they go. The first time was the hardest. Now they give in much easier. I tell them every day how much I love them and how much they mean to me. I believe that helps both them and me.
Many seniors suffer from depression. It could be a life change that causes it if they’ve had to give up driving or had to sell their home. Sometimes it’s just not being able to do all the things they used to do. Our elders are very independent and want to remain vital. Pay special attention to your loved one after a life change. Your visits and interest in them could make a huge difference in them overcoming the hardships of aging. Take them for outings and have the grandkids call and visit. Let them know how much they are loved and how important they still are to you and the family.