At a recent family barbecue, you notice your elderly mother’s clothes are getting loose – she’s lost weight due to her arthritis making it hard to cook meals for herself. You might see a few dents in your dad’s truck, or notice that he has trouble getting up out of his favorite chair. As our senior loved ones age, these subtle changes we notice are often signs that they need help. Seniors are susceptible to a number of chronic illnesses (and often times, two or more at the same time) that can affect their hygiene, mobility, cognitive skills, driving, and ability to complete household tasks.
One telltale sign that your senior loved one may need care is if they have difficulty performing activities of daily living (ADLs) – things like bathing, getting dressed, and housekeeping. Not only can a loss of mobility cause a senior’s everyday needs to be neglected, it can also be dangerous. Elderly falls are the leading cause of injury death for those over 65. Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries, according to the CDC.
Many times, seniors will not readily admit that they need help, and when confronted, they may try to assure you that everything is fine. That’s why it’s important that family members stay vigilant and watch for red flags. The following is a list of warning signs that a senior needs assistance:
- Spoiled food that doesn’t get thrown away
- Missing important appointments
- Unexplained bruising
- Trouble getting up from a seated position
- Difficulty with walking, balance and mobility
- Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
- Unpleasant body odor
- Infrequent showering and bathing
- Strong smell of urine in the house
- Noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care
- Dirty house, extreme clutterand dirty laundry piling up
- Stacks of unopened mail or an overflowing mailbox
- Late payment notices, bounced checks and calls from bill collectors
- Poor diet or weight loss
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
- Forgetting to take medications – or taking more than the prescribed dosage
- Diagnosis of dementia or early onset Alzheimer’s
- Unexplained dents and scratches on a car
If your elderly loved one is exhibiting any of the signs above, it may be time to consider care options. However, seniors often see needing assistance with ADLs as a loss of independence, and may start to view themselves as a burden. That’s why it’s important to recognize the early warning signs and prepare the senior to transition to care. Without a plan, the need for care in an emergency situation can create unnecessary emotional and financial stress for seniors and their families.
Transitioning to care is often an emotional process for seniors – one that can leave them feeling afraid, vulnerable, and angry. Families should focus first on determining what type of care is best for their loved one, whether that be an in-home caregiver or an assisted living facility. Ask your loved one what their preference for care options would be, and try to be understanding of their point of view. If they continue to be resistant to help, enlist the help of other family members and friends who can express concerns about their wellbeing.
While many seniors see needing assistance as a loss of their independence, finding quality care can actually prolong their independence and help them live a safer, healthier, and happier life. An advisor from Amada Senior Care will help seniors and their families find the best care options available for every situation and will work to make the transition to care an easier and more pleasant experience.
Written by Taylor French, Amada contributor.