We love our parents and grandparents, there’s no doubt about that. But our lives are often busy, stressful and far (physically and mentally) from them.
The truth is, many adults live far from their aging parents and don’t speak to them often. Especially during the time of global crisis, visiting them and helping them have become more difficult than ever.
But the worry never disappears from our heads and hearts. “How is she doing? Does he have anything to eat? I hope they’re okay.”
You might consider hiring a caregiver for your aging parents, especially if it seems like their health is on decline.
What are the signs that your aging parents need help?
You can recognize some of these during a call or video call, but if you can visit them in person, more things would become clearer.
1. Changes in behavior
Your elderly parent is acting “weird”. It might be that your mom is getting confused or she keeps repeating herself. Your dad might have mood swings and you notice he gets irritated about minor things.
Changes in mood, different behavior, repeating what they already said; all of these changes might be a sign of elderly mental decline.
2. Wearing clothes not suitable for the weather
If you notice your aging parents wear clothes that don’t protect them from the cold, or the other way around, they wear too much clothes while it’s hot outside, it’s possible they need help.
Also look for signs like worn out and dirty clothes.
3. Keeping old and expired food
This is a bit problematic to recognize over the phone, but if you can visit your parents, be aware of the groceries and food they keep.
Does the house smell of rotten food? Do they keep expired and moldy groceries? Do they have insects and flies around the house?
4. Hoarding and not cleaning properly
Hoarding unnecessary items and not looking after the cleanliness of their house are another signs of declining health in elderly.
If they have a garden or a yard, the lawn could need mowing. Inside their house is disorganized, and even if they claim they clean regularly, you’d find it dirty and sloppy.
5. Loss or gain in weight
Especially if they’ve kept more or less the same weight over the years, sudden change in weight can be a sign they need help.
Try to find out their eating habits and the reasons behind them.
One of the most common elderly decline signs is their forgetfulness and changes in memory.
Unpaid bills, medications they didn’t take or forgot to get prescribed. They could also miss appointments, forget phone numbers they often call or misplace keys, wallets and other things they use daily.
7. Poor hygiene
You might also notice poor personal hygiene in your aging parents. If you notice bad breath, body odor, greasy hair, and so on, it might be another sign that your elderly parent’s health is declining rapidly.
8. More bruises and injuries than usual
These could be signs of them falling often. If they have too many or are in pain when you speak to them, try to arrange a doctor visit immediately.
Not only they might eat poorly, but they possibly forget to drink water, too. Are their lips dry? Do they feel dizzy? Look for signs of dehydration as well as under- or overeating.
10. Leaving the kitchen messy and the stove on
Elderly people who need other person’s help often forget to turn the stove on and don’t wash their dishes.
Depending on the situation, it might be a good idea to consider looking for safer ways of cooking for them or asking them not to cook at all while providing regular meals for them.
11. Depression, low mood and tiredness
If your parents seem tired, like they have no energy and their mood and demeanor is also different and unusually low, they might suffer from mental health issues, like depression.
Do they smile and talk less? Have they lost interest in their hobbies or going out?
If you’re not sure about particular signs of depression, you can look for resources online, such as https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression, https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/signs-and-symptoms or https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/depression-and-older-adults.
12. Broken appliances, dishes and furniture
Visiting your parents can reveal they’ve broken dishes, keep food in a fridge that’s not working or keep electronic appliances that can cause serious damage if used.
13. Unsettled, nervous moves
Does your elderly parent seem nervous constantly?
If you notice them twitching, shaking, making abrupt movements or if they seem restless and worried, these might be, among others, signs of anxiety .
14. Refusing to take medications or visit a doctor
Sudden change in their attitude when it comes to their health can be another sign of elderly mental decline.
It’s important to be wary especially if they’ve been treated for a serious illness and changed their mind about taking their medication and consulting a doctor.
15. Loss of reasoning skills and verbal or physical abuse
Your aging parent can not only have mood changes, but also turn into a person you might not be familiar with. Did you notice them being irritated, swearing and being abusive?
Do they seem to not understand clearly things that we’d call “common sense”? Do they try to convince you about unreasonable things and if you don’t agree, they get angry?
This can be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia or other mental/cognitive impairment.
It can be very difficult and painful watching a parent decline.
But there’s help for aging parents and resources that can help your parents get better and be taken care of.
Here’s a list of helpful links if you need help taking care of your elderly parent:
If you’re in the UK:
If you’re in Slovakia (in Slovak):
If you can think of other helpful resources in these countries or in your country, please, let me know and I’ll add them here.