Helping Aging Parents | Watching for Warning Signs
When helping aging parents it’s a good idea to keep track of the small things in their daily life. I remember one day I came over to my mother-in-law’s place to help her with some house chore. Don’t remember exactly what… probably something to do with trash,.. or a cat,.. or yard work. Before I left for home, we sat together at the kitchen table and had a glass of tea. We then proceeded to solve the world’s problems as we usually did. During our conversation, I couldn’t help but notice her clothing. It was all wrinkled and her collar was pointing up on one side.
This was quite unusual for her. She has always been the type who leaned toward perfectionism in everything. Her clothes, her kitchen, her whole house were always immaculate.
You know the type. A place for everything and everything in its place.
She noticed I was staring at her and realized what was up. She laughed and said she had found a way to lighten her load a little. Instead of dressing for bed at night and then dressing again in the morning, she had decided it was easier to just sleep in her clothes. I said I was sure lots of people do the same thing.
All the while the little red light was flashing in my head.
We had been helping my mother-in-law for several years now. All the while watching her abilities slow. I remember when she could mow her own lawn, drive herself to the grocery store, make and keep her own doctor appointments, and mop the kitchen floor.
But now the challenges had become more personal and frequent: cooking,.. bathing,.. dressing…
I know that while helping aging parents, there are many people who face with the same caregiving challenges we have. In fact, I think there are probably millions. So I’d like to list a few warning signs to watch for, just in case you might be noticing the same thing.
- Does your loved one forget to take their medications? Or, they can’t find the bottles, or recall when they last took them? If you organize their medication pill holder, have you noticed that the pills are not being taken when they should be? Are more of them missing than there should be?
That’s something you need to find out about.
- Does your loved one eat erratically, or even forget to eat? Do you find the food you brought over last week still in the fridge untouched? Do you find a lot of half-eaten left-over foods in the fridge or on the counter? Or, is your loved one eating only one kind of food all the time, like just peanut butter from the jar, at every meal?
That’s something you should look into also.
- Have their grooming, dress, and personal appearance become worse lately? Do they forget to bathe, or refuse to bathe, or are they afraid to bathe by themselves? Do they notice this or do they even care?
That’s something you need to notice.
- Do they isolate themselves? Do they refuse to answer the door, don’t answer the phone, and have stopped calling their friends? Have they given up going out and doing things they used to enjoy? Why?
When helping aging parents it’s important to watch for warning signs. They may be as simple as changes in normal routines, which could be different for each person. It’s important to pay attention to those signs, and do your best to find solutions.
Talk to your aging parent. Ask questions. It’s good to ask a physician or your home health care nurse for advice. You may need to learn more about the situation or about a medical condition in order to adopt the best solution.
Keep trying until things gets better. For our family, it was when we could adopt a good solution that everyone was happy with, and would help to make life better for us and our aging parent as well. That might be something as simple as buying a new pill box,… or it may very well mean it’s time for parent and child to live together.
In the end, all we really want is for our family to be safe, healthy and happy.