At Commonwealth Senior Living, we’ve helped families navigate through the aging process for 20 years and understand it can be an emotional roller coaster. We want to provide you with five of the most common signs that your loved one may need additional support to look for.
1. Loss of Interest in Things They Once Enjoyed
One of the top reasons seniors and their loved ones begin looking into senior living is due to a concern for loneliness. A loss of interest in things they once enjoyed doing can be a sign of depression or a memory or thinking issue.
Understanding the “why” behind this change is a major factor as well. They could be battling physical or health hurdles preventing their engagement, a cognitive decline that impacts their ability to engage, a shrinking social network, or a limiting of contact to peers due to feeling vulnerable about or like a burden to others because of a physical or cognitive decline.
Remembering what they previously enjoyed and cared about can help them stay engaged and able to participate in those activities again within a senior living community or with some help at home.
2. Concern for the Safety of Their Current Environment
Older adults are more susceptible to accidents and injuries than younger adults. A concern that certain care needs are not being met or that their current environment isn’t safe is one sign your loved one may need additional support.
Falls are one example of a leading cause of many serious issues and hospitalizations for seniors. Driving can also be riskier for seniors if there are certain health issues at play. As we age, our reflex times slow and our vision declines, so the ability to respond to traffic and other driving disruptions can create more risk. A more severe concern for senior drivers is if they are beginning to get confused, turned around, or lost while driving to familiar locations. If they are living alone but are no longer able to drive, this can lead to isolation as well.
Another concern for their safety might arise if you notice a change in their judgement. Are they making decisions that are out of character such as giving things of great value away or being overly generous? Are they unable to adapt to seasonal changes with their clothing or the thermostat? Have they become overly trusting or distrusting of strangers?
3. Change in Weight or Appearance
While aging is a gradual process, changes associated with illnesses or lifestyle choices are not a normal part of aging. Gaining or losing weight rapidly, for example, can be a sign associated with various lifestyle changes for a senior.
Some symptoms of dehydration can be as mild as light headaches but can also become more serious with confusion and weakness. Are you noticing any changes? One of the first things to check is if your loved one is drinking enough water. Significant changes in weight can be an indicator of malnutrition or dependency on overly processed foods.
Does your loved one still show the same level of interest in their appearance as they did before? This could be an indicator of some physical discomfort or decline. Oral hygiene and incontinence can also be an indicator of further health complications and can further isolate them.
4. Having Difficulty Completing Daily Tasks
Maybe you’ve noticed a few bills have gone unpaid or your loved one no longer feels comfortable driving to the grocery store. Having difficulty with daily tasks can range anywhere from frustration with using your telephone to struggling to communicate a need for help with instrumental activities of daily living. Ask yourself these questions:
- Can your loved one safely meet all their personal care needs or recognize they need help?
- If they have access to help, are they willing to utilize it?
- Are they having difficulty with activities of daily living, or things we do to care for our body and move around like getting dressed, bathing, or using the bathroom?
- Are they having difficulty with instrumental activities of daily living, or things that support living independently like shopping for groceries, housekeeping, or prepping meals?
- Are they able to manage their medication properly? Can they fill their prescriptions, take them on time, and follow the proper dosage?
Keep in mind that family members acting as this resource for seniors in addition to managing their own family’s and personal needs are much more likely to experience caregiver burnout than a paid caregiver.
5. Lack of Interest or Ability in Managing Their Home
Now that the kids have moved away and it’s just Mom and Dad living in the big family home, they may be spending most of their time completing tasks like cleaning, landscaping, and prepping for the winter instead of making the most of their retirement years. Some seniors may over purchase or hoard supplies, adding another element of expiration dates to be monitored and clutter that can create trip or fire hazards in their home. Are they able to recognize the need for minor repairs before they become major? Can they maintain their outdoor space or manage the communication and payment of outside services to maintain it? Are they prepared to winterize the home and deal with the threats winter storms pose?
Again, the process of considering senior living can be an emotional roller coaster for the entire family. We are here to help you handle the next steps if these questions and common signs that your loved one may need support have resonated with you.