Anthony Johnston, 58, has become his parent’s caregiver. With both his parents in their 80’s and experiencing cumulative age-related health changes, their independence is in jeopardy. The onus is now on Anthony to make sure his parents can get through their day without any dangerous life-altering issues. “It just kills me to see my parents lose strength, cognition and independence,” says the New York City resident.
Seeing your aging parents or loved ones decline is a tough pill to swallow. But you must face reality, aging can bring on an onslaught of health-related issues that will change their overall quality of life. The well-being of our elderly loved ones is our ultimate wish as they age and live out the last years of their lives. Essentials necessary to the dignity and physical and emotional well-being of our seniors is to ensure their daily living requirements are met effectively.
African-Americans are more likely to be in need of care as they age according to a recent policy paper by the Alzheimer’s Association and funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging. But do we recognize the warning signs that our elderly loved ones need help and can no longer lead totally independent lives? You should consider it a red flag if your elderly loved ones:
Is forgetful. Is your mom forgetting about the food that is cooking on the stove? Is your father leaving the car running or forgetting where it is parked? Are doctor’s appointments forgotten?
Red flag—There could be a decline in cognitive function like dementia particularly if the episodes are very frequent.
Car accidents. Has your loved one’s driving habits become perilous–just too many car accidents?
Red flag—Taking away your loved one’s car keys should be considered because safety is an issue and they can jeopardize lives including their own. There could be some cognitive impairment, hearing, and vision issues also going on with your loved one that can explain the frequent car incidents.
Weight loss. Are your loved one’s clothing getting way too big? Are they looking more fragile? Experiencing a loss of appetite? No longer want to go food shopping? Not consuming the right nutrients can also lead to malnutrition.
Red flag–Weight loss can signal a medical condition or be the result of drugs that can cause a lack of appetite.
Spoiled refrigerator food. When you visit your loved ones do you notice spoiled food in the fridge? Do they keep too many things in the fridge that have log expired?
Red flag–Not seeing or smelling food that is spoiling can signal visual, cognition impairment, or sense of smell issues.
Clutter everywhere. Was your mom a neat freak when it came to housekeeping once upon-a-time but no longer? Is there hoarding going on?
Red flag–If your loved one’s level of tidiness has changed drastically, this could mean that there are issues with memory, cognition, vision, depression, or physical limitation problems.
Unkempt appearance. If your loved one is not bathing, forgetting to comb their hair, brush their teeth, change clothing, they have an offensive smell and do not recognize this, then there might be a few things going on with them.
Red flag–Bathing can be taxing for the elderly but being clean is key to staying healthy. Not wanting to bathe can signal cognitive impairment, physical limitation issues, depression, or problems with the ability to smell.
Holding onto furniture for support. Is your loved one having to hold onto furniture to remain steady as they walk?
Red flag–If your loved one cannot walk around freely without holding onto furniture for support then there are balance and mobility problems that limit them physically.
Unpaid or overpaid bills. Are there a number of bills and cut-off notices strewn about your loved one’s home?
Red flag–Not paying or overpaying bills may be due to a loss of executive function from cognition changes which is a definite signal that your loved can no longer function as an independent and responsible adult.
Not taking prescribed meds. If your loved one is not taking the medication that has been prescribed for their particular ailments, they are quite possibly endangering their lives.
Red flag–Not taking prescribed medication can bring on a slew of even more complicated and even life-threatening health issues. Enlist the help of your loved one’s medical provider to help you make some sound decisions in this area.
If the senior in your life is experiencing any of the self-care issues mentioned, they should be discussed with them. If you cannot assist with your loved one’s home care management, look for an in-home elderly caregiver. Many seniors prefer to stay at home for comfort and convenience, and this is when families should consider long term in-home caregivers who can be employed part-time, full-time, or who can reside within the home. Look for a qualified provider who is compassionate, honest and patient.
You’ll need to determine whether you want to use a service or agency to find the ideal caregiver, or if you want to place an ad in effort to secure a private hire, both of which have their own benefits.
To find a senior caregiver, ask for referrals through friends, doctor’s offices or hospital discharge planners, check online job boards like craigslist.org, or try carelinx.com or carescout.com. Or, for a fee, a geriatric care manager (caremanager.org) can help find someone.