When’s the best time to check on aging relatives?

When’s the best time to check on aging relatives? Now! Even in the best of circumstances, older people face challenges in their day-to-day lives: shopping for groceries, preparing nutritious meals, dealing with loneliness, managing multiple prescriptions, and even getting to the doctor. Add cold, ice, snow, shorter days, longer nights and higher utility costs into the mix and the challenges faced by seniors can become almost insurmountable.

As adult children of aging parents, it falls upon us to recognize the signs that Mom and Dad may be in need of assistance. Here are some things to watch for:

Home maintenance. Taking care of a house is a lot of work. If home maintenance and yard work seem to be slipping, it’s not a good sign, especially if your parents were always particular about it. The same goes for inside the house. If the house is cluttered, dirty and disorganized, especially if it’s never been that way before, it’s time to get some help.

Personal appearance/hygiene. Failure to take care of one’s personal appearance and hygiene may mean nothing more than it’s time to move the laundry room and install grab bars in the shower. But not taking care of oneself can also signal depression, isolation and loneliness, changes in vision, or cognitive decline. Explore these issues with your loved one and make any changes that might be needed to assist them.

Changes in mood or attitude. Do your parents seem more low-energy than before? Do they seem not to care about things and people? Have you noticed mood swings? These changes can also signal depression or may be the result of medications, especially if the problem arose shortly after a prescription was added, increased or changed.

Poor nutrition/lack of interest in food. Take a look in the fridge. Is it stocked with appropriate amounts of good, healthy food or spoiled/expired food? Is your parent eating nutritious meals or just eating something now and again? Is there unexplained weight loss or gain?

Physical challenges such as trouble rising from the chair, unsteady gait, dizziness and difficulty sleeping should all be explored and discussed with a physician. Trouble hearing or seeing must be addressed. Older people with hearing deficits often have difficulty understanding instructions given by their doctor; may not be able to hear alarms and sirens; and are at increased risk for rapid cognitive decline.

Confusion and forgetfulness. Everyone forgets things now and again. Watch for missed appointments, late payments, bills being turned over to collections, etc. Forgetting to take medications is critical, as this can lead to further physical and mental decline.

Damage to the car. Dents, scratches, torn-off mirrors and bumpers can be telling, especially if the parent can’t remember how the damage occurred, or had no awareness that it happened.

Lack of interest in things that once were important. Whether it was a rabid interest in OSU basketball; travel; music; or crafting, when an elderly parent gives up something that once was a passion, it bears notice.

Getting help
As much as we want to be there for our aging parents, it’s not always possible. Care Companions of Ohio, with offices in Franklin Furnace, can help. Serving residents in Adams, Brown, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Ross, Scioto and Vinton counties in Ohio, Care Companions can help with bathing, dressing and toileting; provide companionship services such as reading, visiting and playing games; shopping (groceries, clothing, pharmacy); transportation to medical appointments, beauty/barber shop; cleaning and laundry services; meal preparation; and much more!

For more information about services available through Care Companions of Ohio, please call (740) 961-7307.

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