As we age, our bodies and minds change. Our memory is not as good. Arthritis sets in and joint pain becomes common. We may have illnesses that are harder to fight. And the list goes on. But how do you know when to be concerned? How do you know when you might start needing extra help to be safe or should go to a doctor to make sure everything you are feeling is simply a normal part of aging? If you have elderly loved ones, how do you know when its time to intervene and discuss your concerns?
There are often tell-tale signs that you need to begin having a conversation or looking for resources to assist, if you take the time to observe yourself/your environment or that of your elder loved one's.
1. Can the senior take care of themselves? Are they having any hygiene issues, do they seem unkempt suddenly? What about their home? Is it looked after and tidy? If not, has this changed recently? Check the fridge - are there expired bottles and food in the fridge? Are there burnt pots on the stove?Have you noticed a sudden weight loss or weight gain?
2. Are there recent, sudden or new memory issues that seem more than just a bit of normal forgetfulness? Do they get lost when leaving the house? How significant are the things they are forgetting?
3. Do you notice any safety issues in the home? If there are stairs, are they safe and steady to climb them? Have there been any unexplained recent falls or injury? Can they walk safely unassisted or if they have a walker or cane, do they use it consistently? Do they take medications safely and when they are supposed to? Do they drive a car and if so are they obeying traffic rules and are they safe driving?
4. Has anything changed about their mood? Are they still as social as they were or has this changed? Do they call you more or less frequently than in the past?
If any of these questions cause you to wonder if there may be an issue, start by discussing it with your loved one to see if they have similar concerns. Go to the family doctor and discuss the same with them - there may be simple answers to some of what you see - it could have to do with medications or an underlying illness. Of immediate concern would be safety issues so do what you can to address them and look into assistive devices or an assessment by an Occupational Therapist. You may want to look at eligibility for home care through your local government service or other types of services in the community through a local seniors agency (for example, meals on wheels, personal alarm systems, grocery delivery, friendly visiting... etc.). If concerns are significant, it may be time to start exploring local retirement or long-term care homes with your loved one. Do keep in mind that the earlier you address problems and concerns, the more choice you have and the more time you have to make adjustments to an in-home situation. As well, no decisions should be made without the cooperation and knowledge of the senior involved. Sometimes a senior doesn't realize they need help or doesn't want to admit it - bringing your concerns to them, may free them to start discussing options with you. There are many ways to discuss concerns with your loved one. For more information download our Free E-book The Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Living and review Section 1 - Where do I Begin?