Early Warning Signs Additional Support May Be Needed
If you’re are lucky enough to be able to gather together with your family this holiday season, here are some signs you should look for which indicate an aging loved one may need extra help and support.
Grabbing – Casually grabbing chairs, walls, and counters as they walk around the house may indicate they are experiencing greater difficulty with balance. It is crucial to intervene early when poor balance becomes a risk factor for a loved one. Early intervention could prevent tragic outcomes from falls like fractured arms, legs, and hips, or serious head injuries. According to the CDC, more than 90% of hip fractures among adults ages 65 and older are caused by falls – and about 1 out of 5 older adults with a hip fracture dies within a year of the injury.
Weight Loss & Empty Refrigerator/Pantry – In many cases, aging adults don’t eat well-balanced meals or only eat once or twice a day. Weight loss may be a concern for several reasons: poor nutrition, low energy, depression, and increased risk of fall-related fractures due to loss of “padding”.
Car Dents/Dings – For many aging adults, a vehicle may be a point of personal pride or a primary tool of an active social life. If you start to notice more dings and dents on their vehicle, it may be an indication vision is becoming an issue. The most common, macular degeneration, results in the gradual and increasing loss of peripheral vision. A local physician who works with our senior living community shared that dings and dents show up most frequently on the left side of vehicles. The loss of peripheral vision combined with the more complex spatial recognition required to turn left, often across traffic, results in more mistakes being made and thus more dings and dents.
Frequent Emergency Medical Visits –If your loved one has a chronic disease like congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or diabetes, and is ending up in the Emergency Room or the Urgent Care clinic more often, they may be struggling to safely manage their disease on their own. You may discover they are missing doses of necessary medications more frequently than they should or eating foods that aggravate their condition(s).
Isolation – It’s time to be concerned if your loved one is choosing not to participate in the activities which once brought them great pleasure. Whether it’s by choice or by circumstances like hearing loss, vision loss, or decreased mobility, isolation and loneliness are as dangerous to the health of aging adults as chronic diseases.
Signs which may indicate someone is dealing with memory loss requiring additional care and support include:
Increased Confusion – We’ve all experienced walking into a room and forgetting why we’re there. This level of confusion is common and quite normal. However, when confusion and memory loss become more systemic – for example, frequently forgetting routine information such as names, dates, and directions – you may be encountering something more serious. One of the strongest, telltale signals is when someone repeats statements and/or questions they made moments ago without any recognition they’re repeating themselves. They may also become angry at those who point out these repetitions.
Household Disarray – Signs for concern include a home which used to be clean and tidy that is now dirty and cluttered; a yard that was once cared for but is now unkempt; spoiled or expired foods in the refrigerator and pantry; laundry not being washed and/or put away and wearing the same, obviously soiled clothes over and over again. This may signal that cognitive processes are breaking down. People with normal cognitive functioning often take for granted how complex routine household tasks and chores actually are.
Financial Disarray – There may be stacks of unpaid bills and/or late notices and unopened delivery boxes of items purchased from Amazon, telemarketers, or online shopping channels. Checking accounts can become overdrawn and there is increased vulnerability to phone scams or requests for phone or online donations.
Medication Disarray – Look for weekly pill planners with pills left in them; medications scattered on countertops, tables, or even floors; prescriptions frequently running out, or expired medications still being used. These are all warning signs that a loved one is unable to manage their medications independently. The most dangerous warning sign is an increase in hospital visits related to chronic health conditions for which medications have been prescribed, for example, a diabetic no longer managing their insulin ending up at the emergency rooms due to spiking blood sugars.
Sundowning – This is an extremely common symptom for individuals in early to mid-stage dementia. Sundowning is a term used to describe the onset of multiple symptoms: confusion, anxiety, aggression, and an inability to follow directions in the late afternoon and evenings. If you notice your loved one becomes more irritable, frustrated, even angry in the late afternoon and/or evenings, this behavior may be an indication they have dementia.
If you see your parents or a loved one is struggling with any of these symptoms or see other warning signs this holiday season, it’s time to start a discussion with your family. These conversations can also be difficult for families to have and may elicit powerful, complex emotions from siblings. Reach out to resources in your local community to help with these discussions. Consult your physician regarding physical and cognitive symptoms your loved one may be experiencing. Explore reputable assisted living or memory communities in your or your parents’ local community. In addition to offering solutions for aging adults and their families, they are experienced with having these difficult conversations.
Jeff Moyer is the Executive Director of Quail Park, Shannon Ranch. Check out all the Quail Park Communities at https://www.livingcarelifestyles.com/