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Signs to Look for When Visiting Aging Loved Ones this Holiday Season

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Spring Arbor, Greensboro, NCOf the estimated 34 million Americans who provide care to older family members, 15% live an hour or more away from their care recipient. This means that a significant number of caregivers rely on regular telephone conversations and check-ins by other closer-living relatives to gauge an aging loved one’s well-being.

Unfortunately, age-related decline can happen quickly, and in many cases, seniors are skilled at concealing new and worsening problems. For many of these families, holiday visits are the only opportunity for them to observe a senior in person, so it’s important to pay close attention to their physical and mental health and their living situation.

During this year’s holiday gatherings, be sure to look for the following warning signs that a loved one may need some extra help at home.

Weight Loss

One of the most obvious signs of mental or physical ill health is weight loss. Possible causes could be cancer, dementia or depression. Seniors may also experience reduced energy, which can make it challenging to shop for and prepare a nutritious meal and clean up afterwards. Furthermore, all this effort can seem especially unnecessary if they live and eat alone. Certain medications and aging in general can also change the way food tastes. If weight loss is evident, talk to your loved one about your concerns and schedule a doctor’s appointment to address the issue.

Changes in Balance and Mobility

Pay close attention to the way your loved one moves and how they walk. A reluctance to walk, changes in gait or obvious pain during movement can be a sign of joint, muscle or neurological problems. If your loved one is unsteady on their feet, they may be at risk of falling, which can cause severe injury or worse. If you notice changes in their mobility and coordination, make an appointment with their doctor to discuss options to keep them safe and mobile, such as pain management, physical therapy and mobility aids.

Emotional Well-Being

Keep an eye out for changes in your loved one’s moods and behavior. You can’t always gauge someone’s emotional state over the telephone, even if you speak daily. Look for signs of depression and anxiety, including withdrawal from social activities, changes in sleep patterns, loss of interest in hobbies, and changes in basic home maintenance and personal hygiene. The latter can be an indicator of dementia or other physical ailments like dehydration, which often happens to elders in the winter months and can be serious. If you notice sudden odd behavior in your loved one, such as confusion or agitation, be sure to seek medical attention. These are common symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is prevalent in seniors and easily resolved with antibiotics.

Home Environment

Attention must also be paid to a senior’s surroundings. For instance, if you discover excess clutter and piles of unopened mail while visiting, it indicates a problem. Take a walk-through of their home while you’re visiting to see if they are keeping their house to the usual standards. Be aware that sometimes the signs of trouble are a bit subtler. Scorched cookware could indicate that your loved one forgets food on the stove or in the oven, and an overflowing hamper could mean they don’t have the strength and/or desire to do laundry. Check the expiration dates on their prescriptions and over-the-counter medications and try to determine if they’re taking their medications as prescribed. You know your loved one and their habits best, so go with your gut if something seems off.

Later this week in our blog, we’ll discuss how to Handles Signs of Decline.

For more information on assisted living for your loved one, contact Spring Arbor.

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agingcare.com


When Your Aging Parent Does Not Want to Move

Joseph Coupal - Monday, December 04, 2017

Spring Arbor - Richmond, VAIt can often be very difficult when a parent in need of care refuses to leave their home. There are no magic strategies or tricks for persuading an aging parent to move, but adult children should ask their parent to "indulge" them by visiting an assisted living facility.

One psychologist says, "most of us are more likely to change our position and lifestyle if such a transformation is of our own choosing.” “Placed under duress to change, we typically resist, regardless of the soundness of the other person's advice."

And when a parent continually refuses to entertain the idea of moving? The child needs to back off for the time being. But don't give up; seek other ways to raise the issue again.

Unfortunately, sometimes things have to get worse to get better. It may take the parent falling, being spooked, or having the electricity turned off because they forgot to pay the bills for the realization to dawn that they can no longer safely reside in their home. Even then, it may take the strong urgings of health care providers and extended family members for the parent to accept the inevitable.

If the parent begins to show signs of warming up to the topic, you need to emphasize the parent's right of self-determination but also urge action. Structure the conversation in the following way:

Tell your parent: 'I can't make decisions about how you should run your life. It would make me feel better, though, if we could go together to look at some possible assisted living facilities so that you're better informed about what choices are available. Would you be willing to humor me in that way?

If there is a willingness on the parent's part to visit an assisted living residence, you should proceed immediately to set up visits at local senior care homes and point out that most of these facilities will allow an aged individual to try living in them for a week or a month before the person has to decide whether to sell his house and stay in the facility or return home. Experts say that can be the extra bit of comfort that can make the difference for many hesitant seniors.

For more information on assisted living homes, contact Spring Arbor.

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APFM