When the adult children of Seniors begin to worry about their parents living at home, it is time to do some investigation. It may be possible that there is really nothing to be concerned about but on the other hand there are some tell-tale signs that it’s time to think about a move to Assisted Living or Memory Care.
Here are some suggestions to help you investigate the situation and look for clues.
Give your mom or dad a big hug! Why?
- Obvious weight loss can be a sign of depression or chronic illness. Shopping and cooking may be less frequent and the cause of weight loss.
- Increased frailty may be obvious with a hug with decreased strength and movement.
- Obvious weight gain may be an indication of injury, diabetes and even dementia.
- Strong body odor may indicate poor hygiene and memory trouble or physical ailments might be noticeable on a very close inspection.
What can you learn by looking through a stack of mail?
- Unopened personal mail is an obvious clue of failure. Everyone loves a personal letter even if the junk mail is left untouched.
- Unopened bills can be a sign that your loved one is having difficulty managing finances—a first sign of dementia.
- Thank you notes from a variety of charities may be a indication that an older adult may have fallen prey to phone appeals or multiple mailings. They may forget that they have already donated to a charity they love.
Take a drive with Mom or Dad behind the wheel and look for clues.
- Nicks or dents as you enter and exit the car. These can be signs of careless driving.
- Whether your loved one fastens his or her seatbelt. Rote basics are usually, but not always, remembered by someone with mild dementia.
- Signs of tension, preoccupation, or being easily distracted. Is it hard for him or her to talk to you or listen to the radio and also pay close attention to the road?
- Signs of impaired driving. Tailgating, slow reaction time, going consistently below speed limit, confusing gas and brake pedals are signs to watch for.
- Dashboard warning lights. Does the car have sufficient oil, gas, antifreeze, windshield-wiper fluid?
Things to look for in the kitchen especially in the refrigerator.
- Perishables past their expiration dates. If refrigerated items are past expiration dates, they may be unsafe.
- Multiples of the same item. This might indicate that they don’t remember from one shopping trip to the next what’s in the cupboards at home.
- Appliances that are broken and haven’t been repaired. Check the microwave, coffeemaker, toaster, washer, and dryer — any device you know your parent used to use routinely.
Signs of past fire. Look for charred stove knobs or pot bottoms, potholders with burned edges.
Increased takeout, simpler cooking or fast food trash. If someone who used to cook a lot no longer does, the explanation could be a change in physical or mental ability.
Take a good look at living areas.
- Are there piles of clutter? Especially if this is a change for your loved one, being unable to throw anything away may be a sign of a neurological or physical issue.
- Papers that are left on the floor are a particular tripping hazard.
- Signs of spills that haven’t been picked up, or other signs of housekeeping that’s more lax than it once was. Spills are a common sign of dementia — the person lacks the follow-through to clean up after a mess.
- Watch for clutter and grime in the bathroom. The condition of the bathroom may be a serious clue to the total attention of hygiene care.
Notice how the other living things are faring.
- Plants that are dying, dead, or just gone. How well other life is looked after may reflect how well your parents can look after their own lives.
- Animals that don’t seem well tended. Watch out for dogs with long nails, cat litter boxes that aren’t changed routinely, dead fish in the fish tank, or any animal that seems underfed or poorly groomed.
Walk around the grounds.
- Signs of home maintenance problems. Look for discolored siding or ceilings that might indicate a leak, gutters choked with leaves, broken windows or fences.
- Newspapers in the bushes. Check for papers that were delivered but ignored.
- Mail piled up in the mailbox. Watch for this indication that your loved one doesn’t even retrieve it regularly.
Ask other friends and neighbors: Talk to those in your loved one’s circle.
- Stories that reflect your loved one doesn’t get out much. “We don’t see her much lately.” “She doesn’t call anymore.”
- Stories that reflect that your loved one has complained about health or needs extra assistance getting basic chores done.
- Hints of concern in their voices. Listen for comments about your loved one — about his or her health, pets, anything.
Don’t feel guilty or awkward about becoming a detective for your loved one’s best interest.
There may be a sense of guilt about doing such sleuthing around your parents’ home, but it can provide an inside look at what the reality is. In the long run it may be a lifesaving exercise. All of these suggestions can be accomplished in a non-confrontive way and may help smooth the way for a healthy transition.
Staying at home is a goal shared by most, but when it becomes unmanageable or dangerous it is best to look for alternative living situations.
A move to a Assisted Living or a Memory Care facility in Kansas City may become an excellent option in order that our elders can continue to live out their fullest life without the safety issues and burdens of home ownership.