Aging Parents: 8 Warning Signs of Health Problems


Aging Parents: 8 Warning Signs of Health Problems

Concerned about the health of your aging parents? Use this guide to assess your aging parents and what you should do if they need help.

As your parents get older, how can you ensure that they can take care of themselves and stay healthy?

When you visit your parents, consider the following questions:

1. Can your parents take care of themselves?

Pay attention to your parents' appearance. Failure to maintain daily routines, such as showering and brushing teeth, may indicate dementia, depression, or physical weakness.

Also, pay attention to your parents' house. Does the lighting work? Does the heating work? Are back garden plants in good shape? Any changes in the way your parents perform household chores may provide clues about their health; For example, burnt utensils may mean that your parents don't remember the food being cooked on the stove. Neglecting chores may be a sign of depression, dementia, or other problems.

2. Do your parents suffer from memory loss?

Everyone forgets things from time to time. Minor memory problems are a fairly common symptom of aging, and medication side effects or underlying conditions contribute to memory loss.

However, there is a difference between normal memory changes and memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. Are your parents' memory changes limited to misplacing glasses or sometimes not remembering an appointment? Or change worrisome, such as not remembering common words when speaking, not knowing the way around in familiar neighborhoods, or not being able to follow directions?

3. Are your parents safe in their own home?

Check your parents' home for signs of danger. Do your parents have trouble navigating narrow stairs? Has either of your parents recently fallen? Can they read the directions on the medicine packages? When you ask, do your parents tell you that they feel safe at home?

4. Do your parents feel safe on the road?

Driving can be difficult for the elderly. If your parents become disoriented while driving or if you are concerned about their ability to drive safely, it may be time to stop driving.

5. Have your parents recently lost weight?

Losing weight without making an effort to lose it may be a sign of a problem. Weight loss may be related to several factors, including the following:

  • Difficulty in cooking. Your parents may have trouble finding the energy to cook, holding utensils for cooking, or reading labels or directions on food products.
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste. Your parents may not be interested in eating if the food doesn't taste or smell as good as it used to.
  • underlying disease states. Sometimes weight loss indicates a serious underlying condition, such as malnutritiondementia, depression, or cancer.

6. Are your parents in good spirits?

Note your parents' mood and ask them how they feel. A radically different mood may be a sign of depression or other health concerns.

7. Are your parents still involved in social life?

Also, talk to your parents about their activities. Are they still friends? Do they maintain interest in hobbies and other daily activities? Are they in associations or clubs? If your parents stop being with other people, this could be a sign of a problem.

8. Can your parents move around?

Pay attention to the way your parents walk. Do they seem hesitant or unable to walk the usual distances? Have they recently had a fall? Does hip or knee arthritis make it difficult to move around the house? Would it be helpful for one of your parents to use a cane or walker?

Also, problems such as muscle weakness and joint pain can make it difficult to move around. If your parents have imbalances when standing, they may be at risk of falling — a leading cause of disability in older adults.

take a stand

There are many steps you can take to make sure your parents' health and well-being, even if you don't live nearby. For example:

  • Share your concerns with your parents. Talk to your parents. Your concerns may prompt your parents to see a doctor or make other changes. Consider including other people who care about your parents in the conversation, such as other close people, close friends, or a member of the clergy.
  • Encourage them to get regular medical exams. If you're concerned about your parent losing weight, depressed mood, memory loss, or other signs and symptoms, encourage your parents to make an appointment to see a doctor. She might offer to schedule a visit, take them to the doctor, or even find someone else to come with. Also, ask about follow-up visits.
  • Discuss safety issues. Point out any potential safety issues your parents might have, then make a plan to discuss the issues. For example, your parents may benefit from using assistive devices to reach items on high shelves. Using a raised toilet seat or fixed handrails in the toilet may help prevent falls. If your parents can no longer drive safely, suggest other transportation options, such as taking a bus, using trucks, or hiring a driver.
  • Consider using home care services. If one of your parents is finding it difficult to take care of themselves, you can get someone to clean the house and do the little errands. A home health care assistant may help your parents perform daily activities such as bathing. You may also consider using Meals on Wheels or other community services. If staying at home is difficult for them, she may suggest that they move to an assisted living facility.
  • Contact the doctor to request a consultation. If your parents ignore your concerns, consider calling your doctor directly. Your thoughts and vision may help the doctor understand what to consider during upcoming visits. Keep in mind that the doctor may need to verify that he or she has permission to talk to you about your parents' care, which may include a signed form or a waiver document from your parents.
  • Seek help from local authorities. Local agencies that specialize in aging, which you can find using the US nursing home locator, a public service provided by the Department of Aging, can help connect you to these services in your parent's area. For example, the county where your parents live may have social workers who can assess your parents' needs and connect them to services such as home care professionals.

Sometimes parents don't admit they need help, and others don't realize they need help. Here comes your turn. Make sure your parents are aware of the problem and the solution you're suggesting. Remind your parents that you care about them and that you want to promote their health and well-being, both now and in the years to come.