Most of us have a difficult time admitting when we need help. This is especially true when it comes to asking for help from our children when we get older because we want to appear strong. However, needing help is nothing to be ashamed of. If you have an aging parent who is living alone, here are some signs you can look for to know when they may be needing some extra help from you or from a nursing home.
1. Sift Through Their Mail
If you want to get an idea of how your aging parent is doing, look through their mail. The main things you want to look for are unopened personal mail and bills. Most people cannot ignore cards, letters, and other personal mail, so if your parent has left these unopened and unread, it could be an indicator that they are not doing as well as they would like you to think.
Unopened bills are another sign that your aging parent may need some help. Not paying bills lets you know that your parent may be having a hard time managing their finances. This is often one of the first signs of dementia in elders. When checking for unopened bills, also look for letters from banks and creditors. These letters may be informing your parent of payments that are overdue or of accounts that have recently been overdrawn. These are additional indications that your loved one may be having difficulty with their personal finances and needs assistance. Additionally, letters from insurance companies could mean they recently had some sort of accident that you should know about.
2. Go for a Drive
Have your parent drive you somewhere in their car. When you are getting into the car, check for dents and scratches, as these can be signs that your parent is not driving as carefully as they should be or used to. Before you get on the road, see if your parent buckles up. Forgetting to fasten a seatbelt can be a sign of memory or motor skill loss.
While they are driving, check for signs of preoccupation or tension. If your loved one cannot talk to you while they drive, then they may be having difficulties with concentration. If your parent refuses to drive on the highway or at night, they may be doubting their own ability to drive.
Pay close attention to how your parent drives. Are they driving well below the speed limit or tailgating? Do they mix up which pedal is which? Is their reaction time slower than it should be? These can all be signs that your parent may not be able to drive alone anymore and need your help. These can also be indicators of underlying mental issues.
3. Hug Your Parent
Giving your aging parent a hug can help you get an idea of their physical health and their ability to care for themselves. Has your loved one lost weight? Substantial weight loss can be an indicator of a number of health issues, from depression to cancer. It could also be the result of an inability to shop or cook for themselves.
Substantial weight gain is also something you should be concerned about. It can be indicative of diabetes or injury. Weight gain can also be a sign of dementia because they could be forgetting that they have already eaten and will eat the same meal multiple times. Financial management difficulties can lead to weight gain if they can no longer afford fresh, healthier foods.
When you hug your loved one, you can feel if their strength is decreasing. Take note if they feel more frail than usual or if they seem unsteady in their movements. Compare how they feel to how they have felt in the past and keep their current state in mind for future visits. If they are quickly losing strength or becoming frail, they may need help from you or a nursing home.
4. Look Around Their Home
When you visit your aging parent, take a little tour of their home for clues of how they are doing. Clues can be found in all areas of the home.
Check the expiration dates on foods in the fridge and pantry. If there is a lot of expired food, your loved one may be having a difficult time keeping track of when foods go bad, or they may have trouble being able to physically dispose of old food. If there are duplicates of the same item, such as twelve bottles of mayonnaise, then your parent may be having memory issues and is unable to remember what is already in the pantry.
Also check to see if your elder has increased the number of takeout or delivery meals they consume. Did your parent used to cook good meals with multiple ingredients but is now cooking much simpler meals? These could both be signs that their physical or mental abilities may be declining.
While you are in the kitchen, take a look at the appliances your parent uses most frequently, such as the coffeemaker and microwave. Are any appliances broken that have not been replaced or repaired? If your loved one is having a hard time taking care of himself or herself, then they may not be able to go purchase a new appliance or take it to get repaired. You should also look for signs of past fires on the stove or pots and pans. If your parent is having memory issues, they may forget to turn the stove off, which can cause fires, posing a threat to their life if they are living alone.
Does it look like things haven’t been cleaned in a while? Are there piles of clutter strewn about, or are there spills that haven’t been mopped up? These can be signs of dementia and other neurological or physical issues. People with dementia tend to spill something then forget to clean it up. Piles of clutter can be because your parent is physically or mentally unable to throw things away. If these piles are on the floor, your elder runs the risk of tripping over them and getting injured. Excessive dust and unclean bathrooms can mean that your parent is physically unable to do household chores and therefore needs help.
5. Check Out the Other Living Things in the Home
Take a look at your parent’s plants. Are they dead or dying? Does your parent who always had plants in the house no longer have any? What about their pets? Has the cat’s litter box been neglected, or are there dead fish in the tank? Look to see if any animals seem undergroomed or underfed. How well your loved one can take care of other living things is a good indicator of how well they can take care of themselves.
Long-Term Care Facility in East Tennessee
If you are noticing signs that your aging parent is struggling to take care of himself or herself on their own, you should consider your options to get them the help they need. Jefferson Park at Dandridge is a nursing home in Dandridge, TN, that provides long-term care as well as other services to our residents. We think of our residents as our family and strive to create a homelike environment by offering all the comforts of home, from delicious meals to cozy fireplaces. Reach out to us today at 865-397-3333 or online to learn more about us and the services we offer.