Growing up, lying to your parents was likely a big no-no. So, in turn, you can count on them to always be fully honest with you, right? Not necessarily, especially when it comes to their health or well-being. It may not be that they are out and out lying about anything, but when it comes to age-related challenges, your parents may be embarrassed, in denial, afraid to lose their independence, unsure of how the family will react, or all of the above so they keep quiet and pretend everything is ok. Even so, there are likely signs if you’re looking for them. Here are some of the top secrets aging parents may keep.
Falls– This is the leading cause of injury among adults aged 65 and older in the United States according to the CDC and it’s also incredibly common for an older adult to want to keep this from their children. Why? Because your parent wants to keep their independence and they know you’ll want to do something about it like get them a mobility aid, check in on them more, or suggest they move from home.
What can you do? To start, you can be proactive about fall prevention and make sure their home is as safe as possible by clearing clear walking paths, having adequate lighting, removing throw rugs, and placing non-slip mats in the bathroom. What’s more, if they’ve fallen once, they likely fear doing so again so you might notice they pay extra attention when going downstairs, watch their feet when walking, or move slower in general.
Dizziness– Feelings of dizziness can be caused by a variety of different medical issues like changes in blood pressure, poor circulation, medications, and/or anxiety. Your parent may not think this is a big deal, but it could be a contributing factor in falls, fainting, and even car accidents. Even so, your parent likely knows finding the root cause will mean a variety of doctor’s appointments which they want to avoid. They may even worry that the cause of their dizziness will be something significant and they’d rather not know.
What can you do? Keep an eye out as your parent goes about their normal activities to see if they stop suddenly and perhaps sit down, hold their head, or close their eyes momentarily. Or if they start to avoid driving, walking downstairs, etc., you may want to talk with them about it.
Pain – Chronic pain is unfortunately common for older adults, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored which is often just as common. There could be any number of reasons why your parent wouldn’t tell you. Again, they may want to avoid doctor appointments, they fear the pain is associated with a disease that may be progressing, they don’t want to take any additional medication, or they’ve simply gotten used to it over time.
What can you do? Again, pay attention to how they stand, walk, and move. Does it seem they are carrying themselves differently? Avoid putting weight on one of their feet? Not using one of their arms or holding one carefully. Wincing when they turn or bend down? These could be signs of chronic pain that need to be addressed.
Driving Challenges – When it comes to older drivers, weaker muscles and a limited range of motion can restrict the ability to grip/turn the steering wheel, press the accelerator or brake, or open doors and windows. However, most older adults see driving as one of the keys to independence, and one they don’t want to lose. So, they may keep any fender benders, traffic citations, or driving difficulties a secret from you for fear their family members will try to take their keys.
What can you do? To be proactive, make sure your parent keeps up with regular checkups, particularly for vision and hearing, so you can manage any issues that may affect their driving before they become a danger. In addition, look at their car from time to time to see if there are any new dents or scratches, and ask questions if the car seems to be in the shop more than usual.
Financial Trouble – The reality is, no one wants to admit they’re having financial trouble regardless of age; it’s embarrassing. That’s why it’s probably even less likely for a parent to admit this to their child. If your parent lives alone and the financial responsibility they once shared now falls squarely on your shoulders, it can be tough. Plus, it can simply be harder to manage it all the older you get. Not to mention, older adults are often the target of scams that can drain them financially.
What can you do? You must approach this in a way that protects their dignity so you might use a current event such as Medicare enrollment or an IRA distribution to bring up finances. Or share an experience that you heard about in the news, or that happened with a friend or neighbor involving a scam or other relevant financial issue.
Social Isolation – Your parent (and you) may initially rank their social life low on the list of concerns as they age, but the dangers are much more profound than you may think. According to the AARP Foundation, social isolation—feeling detached physically or psychologically, or being disconnected from support groups of family, friends, and community—is a growing health epidemic that’s as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Socializing less may not necessarily be something your parent is keeping a secret, but rather that they don’t realize is a problem.
What can you do? Check in with your parent often to ask about their day, their plans for the weekend, etc., and make conversation about their friends and neighbors so you can tell whether it seems they are getting out as much as they used to.
Malnutrition – Quite honestly, it’s easier to opt for frozen meals and take out when you’re cooking for one or two. But malnutrition is a big concern for older adults because as we age, our body needs more of certain nutrients, metabolism slows, our palate and digestion may change, medications may affect their taste and chronic conditions can affect appetite and may require dietary restrictions. Your parent may not let on that they’re not eating as healthy as they used to, again thinking it’s not that big of a deal but malnutrition can lead to a variety of health issues.
What can you do? Look around your parent’s fridge and pantry next time you’re at their house to see if they seem well stocked with fresh, healthy food. Also, make note of whether your parent seems to have suddenly lost or gained weight as that can be a sign they aren’t eating well.
For more information, or if you think it might be time to consider senior living for your parent, contact a GenCare Lifestyle community today and let us help you! https://www.gencarelifestyle.com/contact