Tell-tale Signs Your Parents May Need Care
You are more than likely to realise when your parent is truly unable to look after themselves, however, many elderly people can actually hide the real truth about their health from their loved ones for a long time. This is because they fear losing their own home, their independence and privacy, as well as having the fear of being ‘abandoned’ in a care home.
Despite these fears, it is really important to make sure you are studying the behaviour and appearance of your parent each time you see them. You need to do this in order to make sure they are taking proper care of themselves. If they’re not, they may end up becoming ill or having an accident that could have been avoided if they’d had someone there, as their carer.
So, what are the tell-tale signs your parent might need care?
1. What is their personal appearance like?
Make sure you pay close attention to all the small details of their appearance. For instance, are their clothes clean and do they smell clean? Small things like not having brushed their hair, cleaned their teeth or their nails can be excused once or twice but if they fail to do this every time you see them, it can be a real sign they are struggling.
Lack of personal grooming is often one of the early signs of dementia but can also indicate depression or indeed a physical injury of sorts. Make sure you note down, over a specific time period, how their personal grooming habits are changing. This is so you have something concrete to present them with, when approaching the subject of getting them some help. Otherwise they may just stonewall you and deny everything.
2. Are they taking care of their home?
If your parent has ever been particularly house proud, it will be obvious when they start to neglect the cleaning. However, even if they have always been untidy, there are key signs they are not taking as good a care of their home as they should be. For instance, are all the lights working and is the heating and hot water coming on and off each day? How dirty is the bathroom and how overgrown is the garden. Importantly, always check how much food is in the house. You need to make sure they are managing to eat.
Neglecting their housework may just be a sign they are too tired or frail to take appropriate care of their home, or it could mean they are showing signs of dementia. Either way, they need help. They cannot live healthily in an untidy, unclean house so you need to consider getting them a housekeeper or a personal carer who will take care of all elements, from housekeeping to the personal care of your parent.
3. Have you noticed any memory loss?
This can be difficult to ‘prove’, since everyone forgets things every now and again. It is also something we are loathe to attribute to our parents because when we do, it is a sure sign they are old and there’s no going back, which can be hard for any child to accept. There are a lot of external factors that can attribute to memory loss, such as the types of medication people take, to being overstressed and worried.
However, typically memory loss does just come with old age and is something we must all accept will happen to us. There is a difference, however, in memory loss. For instance, forgetting where they left their glasses is one thing and can be put down to old age. Forgetting a word or being unable to describe the street where they live is another thing entirely and often means your parent probably has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
4. Do you think they are safe?
It is really important to accept the fact your parent is not going to be as stable as they used to be. You’ve probably already experienced them falling or tripping over so with this in mind, it is important to study their house and identify anything that may cause them trouble. They are very unlikely to admit any accidents to you since they won’t want you to worry, or identify the fact they’re not coping as well as they’re pretending.
Look for bruises on your parent’s legs and arms and ask them how they got them. If they don’t tell you, it’s either because they don’t remember, or they’re lying to you out of fear you’ll send them to a nursing home. Key areas, that are often problematic, are the staircase, outdoor steps and the bathroom.
You need to take steps to secure their safety. For instance, install a stairlift to make their journeys up and down their stairs safer. Install grab rails in the bathrooms, as well as handrails by any steps to ensure they have something to steady themselves. If you feel, at any point, they are not safe, you need to contact the health services and consider your different care options.
5. Is you parent still driving?
One of the scariest things about your parent getting older and less steady on their feet, as well as a bit forgetful, is that they may still be driving! Driving is challenging for many people, let alone those of a golden age. It is important therefore to take time to be driven around by them. Try not to make it obvious you’re surveying their driving skills though.
If you’re in any doubt about their reaction speed, ability to read signs and general Highway Code safety, you need to insist they go to their doctor and get a check-up. For other people’s safety, as well as their own, you should insist they start using other transport options, such as the bus or train and make sure you are also available to ferry them about as needed, so they don’t feel trapped at home and risk taking their car out.
License: Creative Commons
Laura writes for the Extra Mile Home Care Agency. When not writing, she can often be found looking for signs that everyone around her needs care.