The festive season has well and truly arrived and, for many of us, it’s one of the few times in the year that we get to gather will all our loved ones. This Christmas, we are urging families to get together, not just for the good food and company, but for a conversation about the health and wellbeing of your elderly loved ones.
Christmas gatherings offer the perfect opportunity for you to observe your elderly friends and family members first-hand. Instead of waiting for an event such as a debilitating illness or fall, we are encouraging families to keep an eye out for some subtle warning signs that indicate an elderly loved one is not living safely and independently at home.
From our experience, the top 10 warning signs are:
1. A pile of bills
A pile of bills and unopened mail may indicate that your loved one is having trouble managing their finances. This is a particularly prevalent warning sign if you know that this task was the responsibility of your loved one’s spouse who has passed away. Without intervention, this may result in overdue bills, bounced cheques, utilities being turned off due to lack of payment and other creditor issues.
2. Missed appointments
If your loved one is missing social or personal appointments, it may indicate issues regarding memory or even lack of transport options. On the other hand, he or she may be hesitant to attend appointments if they are experiencing a decline in their health. This is usually due to shame, or fear of losing their independence.
3. An empty fridge
A reduction in senses of smell and taste, changes to medication, problems with chewing or dining alone can all affect an older person’s appetite and eating habits. A tell-tale sign of poor eating habits is a near-empty fridge, or one that is packed with spoiled food. While noticeable weight loss is also a tell-tale sign, it is a possibility that your loved one may be eating just enough calories to get by but is suffering nutritionally.
4. Burnt pots and pans
Our most unusual warning sign, but an important one, nonetheless. Scorched pots and pans may indicate that your loved one is forgetting to turn the stove off in time. The most common causes may be memory loss or a reduction in the ability to smell.
5. Poor personal hygiene
Age-related changes in muscle strength, joint flexibility and coordination can make day-to-day tasks such as showering, grooming and dressing more difficult. Other factors that may affect personal hygiene include depression, decreased cognitive ability and even changes in medication. These signs can include unkempt hair, body odour and dirty clothing.
6. A pile of dirty laundry
The age-related changes mentioned above may also affect their ability to keep on top of general housekeeping tasks. Harder jobs like putting on a load of laundry, changing the bed linen and vacuuming the home may be left unattended by your loved one. This is a particularly discernible warning sign if he or she has always been neat and tidy.
7. A mysterious car dent
Ageing does not automatically equal total loss of driving ability. However, age-related factors such as diminished muscle strength, decreased vision, impaired hearing and slowed motor reflexes can significantly affect one’s ability to drive safely. Look for evidence of speeding tickets, fender-benders, dents and scratches on your loved one’s car as signs that his or her driving skills may be deteriorating.
8. A torn shower curtain
Damage to bathroom fixtures such as shower curtains, towel bars or window sills could indicate that your loved one is using these items as support during their personal care routine. This may indicate that he or she is experiencing issues with balance, mobility and confidence.
9. Missed medication
As we grow older, it is common for many of us to take multiple prescription medications to treat various health conditions. This can be difficult to manage without the aid of reminders or blister packs. If your loved one is missing doses of medication or making errors in managing their medication, such as taking an extra tablet because he or she can’t remember taking it earlier in the day, then this may indicate that your loved one needs assistance.
10. A nagging sense that something is not right
You know your loved one best. Don’t discredit your intuition or instinct that something simply isn’t right. If you are worried about the health, safety and independence of your loved one at home, it is for a reason. Many issues we face with age can be solved by providing parents with the support they need to maintain their independence.
Open and honest communication is key, so spend time with your family this Christmas and share your concerns. If health is a real concern, then get in contact with their GP to discuss options.
If you have a loved one in need of home care services, book a complimentary care consultation with My Care Solution today. My Care Solution provides quality in-home care and support services to help older people across Adelaide and the Fleurieu Peninsula live independently.
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