However, you will feel that it is not the same. Regular conversations may uncover a lot of underlying worries and issues they otherwise might hide
Frequent Injuries and Falls
Unfortunately, one of the clear signs that your parent has physical difficulties is injuries. Aging skin is weaker and thinner, and such shows the contusions easily. In more detail, it retains less moisture and loses its elasticity. Skin that has weakened the barrier has compromised the ability to repair itself, resulting in slow wound healing. It is, however, important to note that the cause of bruising in elders can be from an underlying medical condition, so it is best to check with their doctor. Even if the cause of bruises can be treated with vitamin and mineral supplements, the growing physical difficulties might tell a different story about your parent’s current state.
Major Habit Changes
The moody and depressive episodes that repeat indicate that your parent has deeper issues. Loneliness, boredom, and isolation are common among senior people. Did they stop engaging in their hobbies? Or did they stop contacting their friends or meeting with them? Have they missed multiple meetings with their club, organization, or community? When they make a major change in their life, not replacing old with a new activity or any new interest, this is a true confirmation that your parent is not doing well. Even if the cause is not the reason for major concern, engage them in conversations with one of their cousins and their children each day.
The Question of the Retirement Home or Aging Care
The question of getting professional help should be discussed early on. Your parent certainly has thought about many options for this time and has opinions about different aspects of geriatric care. There are many aging care options available: a geriatric manager, geriatric doctors (geriatricians) that can be your consultants for the care organization; an in-home caregiving help, consisting of nurses, cleaners, and other professionals; or already known assisted care communities (retirement homes) for the ones unable to live by themselves. If any problem is discovered during a check-up at the doctors’, a slow preparation for good palliative care is highly recommended. By preparing early, you will ensure that the worst scenario for your parent is handled by the best.
Untidy and Cluttered Living Space
Another issue that can easily be checked and controlled is the cleanliness of your parents’ home. If they live in a house, the first sign will be in the overgrown front lawn. The inside could be dusty, the kitchen sink filled with dirty or even burned pots, and their trash piled up still inside. This is a clear sign to reach out and help them. When you need to help your parents with cleaning, be sure to respect their boundaries so that they don’t feel useless. As with the person who has depression, this is not easy to do and requires a physical effort that might be an additional issue. Be sure to come up with a plan that both you and your family can follow.
Poor Body Hygiene
Pay attention to your parent’s appearance each time you see them. When their own clothes are unkempt, it may be a sign of both physical and mental issues. No hairstyle, missing out on their regular face routine, or simply brushing teeth are easy to notice and a topic for urgent conversation. Another alarming sign is when you can sense their body odour. The body odour, however, doesn’t need to be a sign that they can’t live on their own or that they are ill – older people’s senses worsen over time, and that is completely natural. Try talking to them privately about these issues, encourage them to do it even outside of their usual routine, and ask for help with any part of their hygiene. Help them by buying their new toiletries. A fresh scent of the body wash, a new face cream, or a completely new item, i.e. a body brush, to reach and clean each part of the body easily.
Poor Diet Habits or Sudden Weight Loss
Healthy nutrition is essential at every point of life, and the lack of it can rapidly show on seniors. Contrary to the definition of malnutrition as a lack of nutrients, many other factors can result in it: changes in taste, dementia, depression, illness, medication, etc. Observe their behaviour, talk to them about any possible food-related issue, check their food supplies, their food preparation process, and propose some solutions. There are food delivery services nowadays that cater to different tastes and conditions, caregivers that include food preparation and feeding in their services, and, in the end, you can always do bulk portion preparation for the upcoming week when visiting.
Regular Doctor’s Appointments
You can tell that older people need more frequent visits to the doctor’s office. You should go for regular appointments at least once a year, and with age, your parents may need scheduled appointments even more often, depending on your parents and their family’s medical history. Your parents might oppose this, especially if they have been avoiding medical visits earlier during life. Multiple visits to the doctors most certainly don’t indicate that the next point is a significant change. Ensure them that their decisions will be respected, whereas convincing them that these are the best preventative measures.
Address Safety Issues – Home and Driving
When visiting your parents’ home, you already have seen what the potentially dangerous spots of their home for children or pets are. But did you check what could be an issue for them? Narrow staircase, too high shelves, the old pipes or kitchen appliances that may be a potential hazard. Check the lights and set up a home security system so that they can see and feel safer. Make sure that each room has enough space for them to walk around since the falls do happen. Check with their doctors if they can drive and do some complex tasks, like taxes or even reading maps.
Split Responsibilities and Ask for Help
Caregiving is not an easy profession, and the fact that your or someone from your family will be the caregiver to your parent is a major responsibility. Whether you can be the caregiver on the spot or only support from a distance, you could get under significant stress. Ask for help from the local community, doctors, authorities, people who are or were in similar situations. The primary caregiver’s stress is, however, a reason to share responsibility among everyone in the family. Stay connected to siblings and other cousins even outside of the caregiving topics, but do be realistic when setting goals for completing tasks.
Excellent and Clear Communication Is the Key
Before, during, and after caregiving – the way you communicate will greatly determine how will this ‘helping hand’ part of life look like. No matter both of your characters, the situations and the bad will happen more and more often as the health worsens. The best shot you have is to be in the role of loving support. You have to be the more responsible one, more patient, more assertive, and less selfish in this relationship since they are on the road without return. Ask for explanations and opinions on different matters, encourage them to speak their truths, help them make decisions, and in return, let them help you do the same. Whichever part of the road you are on, you are a loving family to each other.