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Your parents did practically everything for you when you were a child — but now as you see them grow older, you may find yourself wondering if they still have the ability to even take care of themselves.
It can be challenging for elderly individuals and their loved ones to admit that outside help is needed, and the problem is more common than you might think. Statistics from the Family Caregiver Alliance report that “among the population aged 65+, 69% will develop disabilities before they die, and 35% will eventually enter a nursing home.”
Whether you’ve already grown concerned about your elderly parents’ ability to take care of themselves or they seem to be doing perfectly fine, it is essential that you can identify when assistance is needed. The following signs are some of the top indicators that your loved ones could use some help.
1) Difficulty With Daily Living Activities
One of the first signs that your elderly parents need help is when they can no longer manage what is commonly know as the “activities of daily living” (ADLs). When I spoke with Jason Bliss, founder of Healthy Living Network, to get insight on what this means, he explained, “>span class="15">—bathing, getting dressed, shopping and cooking. When a person struggles with any of these tasks, their ability to live independently is in jeopardy.”
Elderly individuals may attempt to hide these challenges. According to clinical psychologist Donna Cohen, “Many older people see themselves as proud survivors. They think ‘I’ve been through good times and bad, so I’ll be fine on my own.’” If you suspect something is amiss, a functional assessment by a doctor can reveal the truth.
2) A Worsening Chronic Condition
While many people are able to adapt to the challenges of diabetes and other chronic conditions, these health issues become more difficult to cope with as a person ages. For example, as diabetes impacts an elderly parent’s vision, they may become unable to read the labels on their medication or safely navigate the stairs.
Of course, there are many other chronic conditions that typically manifest later in life, such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease or heart disease. If your elderly parents have been diagnosed with one of these conditions, constant monitoring of their health is essential. As the disease progresses, they will likely require more assistance to perform daily tasks.
3) Clutter and Poor Housekeeping
As a loved one’s ability to manage daily living activities decreases, housekeeping is one of the first areas to suffer. The kitchen is often one of the easiest places to spot this problem, as dirty dishes pile up in the sinks and expired food fills the pantry. Plants throughout the house may not be cared for properly. Your elderly parents may fail to clean up spills or dust regularly.
Failure to clean isn’t the only problem — allowing clutter to accumulate throughout the house (especially on the floor) poses a severe safety risk. As Sarah Stevenson explains, “Even in their own home, the combination of poor eyesight and minor safety hazards can put seniors at risk for falls, broken hips and even death.”
4) Reduced Social Activity
We expect a person’s social circle to shrink as they age — but we often ignore the loneliness and depression that can occur as a result. Pay close attention if your elderly parent begins to cut back on social activities they once enjoyed. They may cancel club memberships or stop going on outings. In severe cases, the may even avoid leaving the house for several days.
The depression that results from this lack of social interaction can affect heart health and other areas. Assisted care, on the other hand, increases the possibilities for social interaction and helps stave off these issues.
5) Physical Frailty
We expect our elderly parents to become more frail as they age, but children should be aware of certain physical changes that hint at underlying self-care issues. For example, a sudden loss in weight could actually be related to a cognitive illness that causes them to forget to eat well. Individuals suffering from such conditions may also forget to shower or they might regularly complain of being exhausted.
While these warning signs may come on gradually, you shouldn’t brush them off. Declining mobility and stability greatly increase the risk of injury for elderly parents living alone.
6) Financial Problems
Unfortunately, many elderly individuals begin to suffer financially as a result of worsening cognitive problems. Pay attention to your parents’ financial situation, particularly in regards to the mail they’ve received. Large piles of unopened mail, including bills and letters related to overdue payments, are a clear sign that someone needs to step in to manage the finances.
While aging can take its toll on your elderly parents’ physical and mental capabilities, this doesn’t mean they have to suffer through a lower quality of life during their golden years. By learning to identify when they need help taking care of themselves, you will be able to keep your parents safer, healthier and happier.