woman smiling with her mother

Did anything concern you the last time you visited with your elderly parents?  Were they suddenly acting differently? Are you concerned about their health? As you spend time with your elderly parents, pay attention to certain signs that may warn of a need for extra care or assistance.

In a recent article titled “Aging Parents: 7 Warning Signs of Health Problems,” the Mayo Clinic outlines 7 warning signs to look for:

1. Are your aging parents taking care of themselves?

Are they wearing clean clothes? Do they bathe regularly? Are they taking care of their home, doing the dishes, and keeping up with basic maintenance of the home and yard? If they stop taking care of basic personal hygiene or stop doing maintenance tasks around the home, that could be an early sign of dementia, depression or physical impairments.

2. Are your aging parents experiencing memory loss?

Modest memory loss is typical with aging, sometimes even a side effect of medication. But aside from losing an item around the house or forgetting an appointment, have your parents started forgetting more important things? Do they forget their words in the middle of a conversation? Does your parent get lost when trying to walk or drive somewhere? This kind of memory loss could be a sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia. If you are concerned, consult their doctor.

3. Are your aging parents safe in their home?

Are there hazards in the home? Are your parents falling often? Is a staircase too dangerous? Do they have loose carpeting? Do changes/updates need to be made to make the home safer? Are your parents able to safely manage their medications?

4. Are your aging parents safe on the road?

Observe your aging parents’ driving. Pay attention to their driving habits. Are they safe? Should they still be driving? If you’re concerned, maybe it’s time for them to use alternate transportation. This can be a difficult conversation to have, and you may meet with some resistance. Help your parents maintain their independence by suggesting other modes of transportation or hiring a transportation service.

5. Have your aging parents lost weight?

Unexplained weight loss could be a sign that something is wrong. Are they having difficulty cooking? Are they still able to use cooking utensils and read basic recipes? Do they have a loss of the sense of smell or taste? Losing either of these senses would make eating less enjoyable. Weight loss could also be a sign of a larger problem, such as malnutrition, dementia, depression or cancer.

6. Are your aging parents in good spirits?

Is your dad his normal jovial self or has he become quiet lately? Is your mother still attending her favorite club or organization? Are they still socializing with their friends? If there have been abnormal changes in mood or social habits, this could be a sign that your aging parents are depressed. Depression is treatable at any age; seek professional help.

7. Are your aging parents able to get around?

Are they steady on their feet? Do they need the assistance of a cane or walker? Are they at risk of falling? Are they plagued with knee and/or hip issues that make it hard to perform daily tasks? A fall can be devastating, and injuries often lead to fear of activity and a rapid decline in health.

 

If you find yourself concerned with any of these items, talk to your parents about it. Communicate your concern. Let your parents know that you care about their health and safety and address the issues. Make necessary changes or updates to your parents’ home, visit the doctor and consider getting assistance with in home care or transportation. You want your parents to be around for a long time—happy and healthy.

This information is based on the article “Aging Parents: 7 Warning Signs of Health Problems,” by the Mayo Clinic. To read the entire article, go to http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/aging-parents/HA00082