Life is full of changes especially as we hit those senior years but some changes should have us thinking, “Is something wrong?” When it comes to our senior loved ones, keeping a watchful eye could be a life saver. We have strong, independent loved ones who don’t want to ask for help, so it’s our job to be on the lookout for seemingly little things that might mean trouble.
Out of the Ordinary – Their Physical State
When you see your folks’ habits suddenly change, you’d better start asking a few questions and take a closer look at what’s going on. A sudden change in personal hygiene may speak volumes if you’re listening. It might not mean that death’s at the door, but it could mean your mom or dad is having trouble getting out of the tub or shower. It might mean they’re a little down or really depressed. Almost anything that is a sudden change can be cause for concern. Remember most elders are proud folks, so keep your words kind and thoughtful.
“Mom, I’ve always loved they way you stay so clean and your hair is usually so pretty. Are you feeling scared of falling in the bathroom?”
Now that might not be the reason for the change at all but it might get the conversation rolling. Your mom or dad might be experiencing a physical ailment such as a urinary tract infection or incontinence. Are they doing a lot of laundry lately? Is their favorite easy chair covered with a towel or throw?
If your parent has gained a lot of weight or lost a lot you should be concerned enough to pick up the phone and get them a medical appointment. It could be they’re just a little blue or it could be a physical ailment. It could mean they’re just watching too much on the Cooking Channel. Just be aware that physical changes can be a warning sign.
Changes in the Home
My own mother’s kitchen is always neat and clean. Hers sparkles compared to mine. So if I should see she’s got a messy kitchen or the house is in disarray that would be cause for concern. Now should my own kids see my kitchen a mess, that would be the norm! So if you see something going on in their home that is different, get a little nosy.
Check out their fridge for food gone bad. Do the fridge and cabinets have an adequate amount of food? Use your nose and check out the kitchen and the bathroom. Does it smell different? Look different? Ask them if they’ve been feeling all right. Ask what they’ve been eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Watch how they get around. Are they stumbling a lot? Is their balance good?
It might mean they just need a little more help around the house. It might mean it’s time to see the doctor. It’s always best to get another opinion, so ask your siblings and maybe even their neighbors to find out what’s really going on.
Disengagement and Isolation
If your folks have always stayed connected to friends and family but you aren’t hearing from them on a regular basis or they start never going out to socialize, you need to investigate a little further. It might mean they’re having mobility issues. Have they taken a fall lately and recovered physically? Sometimes the fear of falling will keep an elder close to home long after they’ve recovered physically from the fall.
Do you know if they’ve quit driving? Are they having more trouble seeing or having trouble with their memory? Many things can cause older people to isolate. Be a detective and find out.
It might mean they’re staying close to the bathroom. It could be a sign of depression. Please be aware that isolation for elders can be a huge warning. Take charge and get them an appointment with their physician. Rule out a physical problem then do whatever it takes to get them out among the living!
Talk, Talk, Talk
Your love and time are the best medicine of all. Stay closely connected. Know what’s going on. My parents call me daily, multiple times a day. If they didn’t, I’d know something is wrong. Show them your concern and don’t be afraid to ask questions and do what needs to be done. They’ve been there for me and for you all our lives and now it’s our turn to step up.