"I watched with much interest your video that appears on the bottom of the homepage of www.eldercarematters.com, and I was wondering whether you can provide me with some additional signs that I should be looking for that may suggest that my aging mother may need elder care services, including moving to an assisted living community."

Answer:  Below is a list of Signs to help you determine if your loved one needs help.

  1. Food in the refrigerator is uneaten or outdated. A quick glance in the fridge can tell you a lot: Is there sufficient food in there, or is it becoming difficult to get to the store? Is the food outdated, or is your loved one becoming forgetful? Is there a lot of uneaten food because your parents don’t have much of an appetite anymore?
  2. The house is cluttered or unkempt. An unkempt house may be a sign of forgetfulness or depression: Look for piles of unfinished laundry, boxes filled with household items and dishes left in the sink or microwave for long periods. An unkempt house is dangerous and could result in unnecessary falls.
  3. Unexpected and unexplained weight loss. Any drastic weight loss could be a warning sign that your loved one needs help. Losing weight can be a sign of poor eating habits, an indication that there is a health issue or a warning sign for depression.
  4. Bills are piling up. If the mail isn’t opened or bills aren’t paid, your parents could be experiencing forgetfulness or confusion. Look for a recently canceled check to make sure the payment was made properly and in a timely manner.
  5. Personal hygiene has changed. Paying attention to hygiene and habits can tell you a lot about what your loved one is experiencing. If you suspect she hasn’t bathed in a week to 10 days, she may be afraid of falling in the tub or shower. If your dad’s wearing the same clothes all the time, he may not be doing laundry on a regular basis because it’s not easy to get to the laundry room.
  6. Missing appointments. If your mom hasn’t been going to her hairdresser for standing appointments, or your father’s missing his doctor appointments, it could be a sign of forgetfulness or an indication that they need help with transportation.
  7. Medications are mixed up or not being taken. This could be a sign of short-term memory loss, depression or confusion. “No matter the reason, this is a serious health risk,” says Khaled Imam, M.D., Chief of Geriatrics at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.
  8. Disconnected from reality or confused: When you call your mom, does she seem confused? Does she make sense? Is she talking about relevant topics?
  9. Dangerous driving and getting lost. If your parents are still driving, it’s important to evaluate their skills. Look for classes that can assess and enhance their driving abilities, many communities offer “mature driving” workshops.
  10. Concerns from the neighbors. Talk to your parents’ neighbors — they may be your best resource.
  11. Loss of Interest in hobbies. A loss of interests in previously desired activities could indicate depression or lack of resources or transportation issues.

Margo MacRobert, RN, MS, CCM, NEA-BC
Oklahoma University School of Nursing – Life Stage Solutions
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  73106
405-271-8767
Member of the national ElderCare Matters Alliance, Oklahoma chapter

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