Signs You Should Never Ignore When Caring for an Aging Parent

Woman taking care of her mother
Caring for senior parents

 

 Caring for an Aging Parent

Seeing your parents' age is something nobody ever feels prepared for. It's challenging to determine when aging actually starts, as it can happen seemingly in the blink of an eye. One day, your parents help you through life, and the next day, you feel like you need to help them. You become more in tune with the signs your elderly parent needs help.








As people get older, they start to recognize signs of cognitive decline in elderly people. Some of those people might be their own parents, as difficult as it may be to grasp. Plenty of things that people view as normal for aging individuals might be a cause for alarm. For example, dizziness can signify something as simple as the side effects of a new medication or as serious as low iron levels and indicate that they need to change their diet immediately.

5 Signs to Look Out For

Once you know the signs your elderly parent needs help, you'll find them that much easier to look out for. Keep a note of how your parent behaves whenever you visit them. If you notice a sharp turn or drastic change from how they used to be, it might cause concern. Consider talking to their doctor or arranging more frequent check-ups to monitor their progress with these signs of cognitive decline in elderly folks.


doctor with a patient
Make sure to get them checked by a doctor


1. Failing Functions

As people get older, they start to slow down. Their bodies don't work as well as they used to, and they may have issues doing many of the things they did when they were younger. You may start to notice some parts of your parent's body or mind failing them on occasion. Usually, some changes are regular, but if you see a sharp decline, you may want to turn to your parent's doctor.

Without activities during the day, your parent might turn to devices to pass the time. Spending a lot of time in front of a screen can damage your eyes. Your parent might have failing eyesight due to looking too long at an artificial light source, especially if the room doesn't have adequate lighting. Always make sure that your parent is outfitted with the right gear they need to promote a healthy lifestyle.

2. Withdrawing From Activities

Another of the signs of cognitive decline in the elderly is withdrawing from social situations or gatherings that formerly made them happy. Your parent might start staying home from things like meeting up with friends or attending church. If they suddenly stop doing the things they used to love, it could be an issue.

Isolation could also be a symptom of depression. By 2030, the amount of older adults with mental health challenges will likely double. Make sure that your parent is still engaging with loved ones when you're not around. If they're fit to care for an animal, you might also consider getting them a canine companion that can keep them active and social via walks and visiting pet stores.

3. Forgetfulness

Your parent might start to forget things. A bit of forgetfulness is normal. It may slip their mind to bring something with them to an appointment, for example. Still, repeated forgetfulness is an issue and might be an early sign of dementia.

Look at how often they forget to take their medications or leave the stove turned on or unattended. These small moments are crucial to understanding just how forgetful your parent could be — and might be a sign of an underlying cognitive condition.

4. Issues With Communication

Keep an eye on how your parent speaks to you. Issues with communication can arise due to personality changes that come with dementia. Are they still able to have deep conversations with you, or do they stick to more superficial things? Your parent may repeat questions and conversations they've already had with you. Take care to treat them gently when they repeat things, but note that it might be a cause for concern.


older woman washing her food
Watch them closely to see if they are eating and preparing the food right

5. Their Living Space

Finally, the space your aging parent lives in can indicate a lot about their health. Occasionally, look at the food items in their fridge. Are they expired and still being used? Has your parent been cleaning their living space or themselves properly? If they cannot clean their home, consider hiring help to routinely clean. Or, if your parent doesn't like the idea of that, offer to help them clean. Spending more time with them can only improve their cognitive functions.

How You Can Help Your Parent

While it might be difficult to see your parents age, you can still help to slow the signs of cognitive decline in elderly loved ones. Spending time with them is a great way to keep their mind active, and your parent may appreciate the company. Watch for the signs your elderly parent needs help so you can take action right away.

1. Give Them Autonomy

Your parent is still your parent and might not like the idea of being looked after by their child. You can assure them that you're spending more time with them because you want to, not because you want to change everything about their life. You can offer to do things for them, but if they want to do it themselves and are fully capable of it, don't try to stop them. It's good for your parent to retain autonomy and do things for themselves as long as possible.

2. Make Their Environment Friendlier

If you notice your parent having some trouble navigating their home, consider making their environment friendlier toward them. You can make minor changes to help their home feel more welcoming. You might find that less is more.

For example, if your parent has trouble eating all their groceries, you may consider subscribing to a service that delivers ready-made meals. If they enjoy cooking, consider a meal delivery service that features all the ingredients but allows them to make the dishes themselves.

You may also want to install a ramp over outside stairs to minimize your parent's risk of falling. Eliminating unnecessary rugs might also help them have better footing. Getting regular checkups at the doctor and prioritizing the right exercises to keep the body strong can help your parent lessen the likelihood of injury by falling.

3. Engage Them in Conversation

Your parent will be delighted to talk to you about anything — from current events to what happened in their day, they will talk about it if it means they get to spend time with you. Older adults who spend more time in social situations also move around more.

While you have conversations with your parent, you might be encouraging them to move around more and get active. Being social with you might also push them to start meeting up with their friends again. Of course, if they can't get there on their own, you should volunteer to take them out to see their buddies.

Watch for Signs Your Elderly Parent Needs Help

Your parent may only sometimes speak up when they need help. It's your job to watch for signs your elderly parent needs help, and some may not be as evident as you think. Keep a benchmark of your parent's health with their doctor. That way, you'll know what to look out for and how you can start helping them improve their mental and physical functions. Above all, make sure you're doing what your parent wants. Encourage them to be healthy and change their lifestyle but put their happiness at the forefront of your decisions.



Author: Beth Rush is the content manager and Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She is a well-respected writer in the personal wellness space and shares knowledge on various topics related to nutrition, fitness, holistic health, mental health, and disease prevention. In her spare time, Beth enjoys going for runs and trying out new fitness trends.


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