Don't Ignore These 5 Signs Your Elderly Loved One Needs Help Immediately
While forgetfulness may be common among the elderly, memory loss is not part of the aging process. Our brains can create new brain cells at any age, so don’t assume your senior loved one’s sudden inability to recall key information is trivial.
And while there may be no surefire way to tell the difference between mere forgetfulness or dementia without clinical tests, there are signs that things aren’t normal. It is imperative to not ignore these signs:
1. Unexplainable Scratches or Dents on Our Loved One’s Car
Telling a parent it's time to give up the car keys is incredibly difficult. Role reversal is hard and uncomfortable. But if you start noticing scratches or dents on your loved one’s car, especially ones he or she can’t explain, you need to discuss assistance as soon as possible.
Not just for parent’s safety, but for other drivers on the road as well. Your intervention could make the difference for them too, so be diligent if your confidence in your loved one's driving ability is waning, and warning signs, like damage to the car, start appearing.
2. Lack of Hygiene
Is your senior loved one wearing the same outfit for days at a time? Have you noticed a decline in appearance, or perhaps your loved one is getting a bit odorous?
Does your loved one look sick? Has he or she lost significant weight?
Signs of noticeable weight loss or unsanitary conditions shouldn't be dismissed. It’s not enough to just clean and feed this person. If your loved one forgets to do things like shower, change clothes or eat, it’s time to have a conversation about assistance going forward.
3. Bruises, Cuts or Scrapes
A fall is arguably the most serious sign you can encounter that your loved needs help at home. Per the National Council on Aging (NCOA), falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older. Worse, the risk of falls only increases with age. At age 80, over half of seniors fall annually.
If you start seeing bruises or abrasions on your senior loved one, you need to ask him or her how it happened and immediately do whatever is necessary to prevent future falls. A notable benefit of professional care providers is that many are trained or certified in fall prevention, and can quickly fall-proof your loved one’s home to ensure he or she remains safe.
For more information on fall-proofing your loved one’s home, click here.
4. Irritability or Aggression
Aggression may be a side effect of dementia. Even if your senior loved one has always had a temper, it’s important to take note of aggressive behavior.
Repeated aggression or hostility will take its toll on family caregivers. Caregiver burnout is not only a threat to the family caregiver, but it can unintentionally place a care recipient in danger. If your loved one’s attitude becomes too aggressive, it may be worth considering a trained professional who has experience working with similar care recipients.
5. Lapse in Home Maintenance
Wondering when the last time the lawn was cut? Noticing the inside of the house hasn’t been mopped or vacuumed in a long time? Are things left out of place way more than usual?
Don't write off this behavior as laziness, especially if your loved one has traditionally been a clean and organized person. The unkempt home could signal more significant problems that shouldn't be ignored. And it's not enough to just help get the house in shape. Your loved one may be reaching a state of dependency, and the condition of the house can be indicative of that.
Most Likely, Your Loved One Won’t Let You Know
Resistance to assistance is common, especially among aging parents. So, if you’re waiting for your loved one to ask for help, you may be waiting for much longer than you should. Assistance may violate his or her identity, causing confusion and resentment. In most cases, roles between a parent and child are being reversed, and the parent is just not ready for that switch.
Role reversal often creates stubbornness, which can be disruptive. One study by Allison Heid, a developmental psychologist at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, discovered that 77 percent of middle-aged adults said their parents were stubborn sometimes. Sixty-six percent of parents agreed.
Remember that resistance is normal. But the best thing you can do for your senior loved one is to pay attention and don’t wait to discuss professional home care if you notice any of these signs.
A professional caregiver is trained to recognize these signs. To learn more about home care service for your loved one and how it can help, click here.