Aging is a wonderful and unique path each of us follows. There is no perfect scenario for any one of us, in fact there are times when things seem to go off track. Off track means we can get back on track – different does not mean disaster. We can help our loved ones continue on their path of aging if we know what to look for.
Here are a few signs that things are changing for Mom or Dad:
- was an early riser and now still in a robe at 2pm
- has piles of unopened mail or can’t find the mail
- has not taken medication or can’t remember when they last took medication
- outdated food in the fridge and too little to eat in the pantry
- the cat box has not been cleaned or the dog not fed
- can’t seem to find the keys that are plainly on the shelf
- the car is parked on the curb or not fully in the driveway
- wearing the same clothes as last time you stopped by
- doesn’t seem to think anything is amiss
When we see any of the signs above, or other ‘odd’ behaviors it’s a hint that we should look deeper at the larger picture.
Risk of Dehydration
Missing one meal may not be a problem, but ongoing poor eating and drinking habits can cause dehydration and increased confusion. The lack of fresh food makes mealtime unappealing and even avoided. If a person is not drinking enough water or other beneficial liquids, medication regimens can be disrupted – starting a new cycle of medical issues. Dehydration can cause a urinary tract infection (UTI) with subsequent delirium that can be confused for dementia behavior which sends family and doctors down the wrong road of investigation.
Possible Solutions: Keep small bottles of water around the house and in the fridge. Call and ask Mom or Dad if they have had something to eat or drink. Make a reminder sign(s) to drink water and eat a snack or meal. Make a checklist for them to mark each time they eat or drink. Hire a caregiver to come in several times a week to assist with meal preparation and replenish the water bottles. The caregiver can keep you updated.
Increasing Memory Loss
People may begin to feel insecure when going out with friends or family, because they don’t know what to do or say once in that setting. They might ask the same question over and over again despite your having answered it repeatedly. Poor decision-making when dealing with calls or someone coming to the door, Missing medication schedules. Poor personal hygiene and not changing clothes. Mixing medications Missed appointments as they lose the ability to distinguish today from a date in the past. Memory loss can also increase generalized fear in and out of the house. It would be frightening for any of us to wake up and not know where we are or what we’re supposed to do next. All these are signs of memory loss and probably are sign of a medical issue on the horizon. Put up an oversized calendar to add events to and show Mom or Dad that you’ve checked off the ones already gone by. Make a No Solicitations notice for the front door. Have the passcode for the phone so you can check the messages. Hiring a caregiver to help out with meals, light housekeeping, medication reminders and as a buffer between Mom and strangers at the door or on the phone.
Loss of Vision, Ambulation and Dexterity
Its frustrating if we can’t clearly see well enough to distinguish the medications or numbers on the dial,. We know that deteriorating ambulation due to disease or lack of use can not only cause falls, but cause increasing fear of another fall. Making a meal is harder to do when it comes to remembering the steps and getting all of the ingredients ready. What used to be simple tasks like doing personal laundry, making a sandwich and carrying the plate to the table, opening cans or jars, or even use a phone can become more challenging with arthritic hands. Use large print labels whenever possible. Purchase large print pillboxes. Streamline mealtime by placing the right amount of each food for meals in a container that is easy to open. Use only the lower shelves so that items are easy to see and reach. Ensure that jars and cans are small enough to be handled by aging hands – nothing too large that could end up on the floor or worse on someone’s toes. If its possible have a caregivers prepare a few meals in advance and put in the fridge as well as changing the bedding and doing the laundry.
It gets difficult to socialize and meet friends and family. One might see a slacking of social skills and acceptable behaviors. Some might feign fatigue to avoid dealing with family or friends. Have friends and family go to Mom or Dad’s house to visit. Keep outings simple – one store or event at a time. A caregiver can help set a routine to help keep track of dates and take your Mom or Dad to the doctor, lunch, shopping and more.