If you’re an adult child visiting your family home this holiday season, put “look for red flags” on your list, says Lauren Kessler, Executive Administrator at Bartley Healthcare, located in Jackson, New Jersey
“No one likes to accept the fact that they’re getting older, especially if they’ve progressed to a point where they need help to live safely,” Lauren says. “It can be a very delicate conversation, particularly because change just doesn’t suddenly happen overnight. It’s usually quite gradual, which is where living in a different town than your parents can actually help. Adult children have an opportunity to look for signs that have popped up since their last visit.”
Lauren cautions, though, about bringing up any conversation about requiring help or moving to assisted living during your holiday visit. “This is a conversation you don’t really want to have in the moment,” she says. “Instead, use this opportunity to help with what you can immediately, and then schedule a further discussion after you’ve had a chance to think things through with doctors and other family members.”
Red flag #1: Sudden change in weight.
Gaining or losing a large amount of weight suddenly is concerning, particularly in older adults. This can be a signal that there are serious underlying medical issues ranging from depression to diabetes to cancer. It could also be a sign that your loved one’s mobility is decreasing, which makes it hard for them to prepare meals or go to the grocery store. Or perhaps they’ve lost their taste due to medications or aging. Whatever the case, it’s something that should be checked out.
Seniors’ metabolisms drop as they age, making it even more essential to ensure they’re eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods. However, it’s common for seniors to choose processed foods or not eat at all, either because of difficulty or simply not feeling hungry. Malnutrition weakens your immune system and can lead to a score of health issues that can cause significant problems down the road.
Red flag #2: An unsteady gait or balance problems.
Is it hard for your dad to get up out of a chair without assistance? Are they avoiding using the stairs? If your loved one is having difficulty getting around, they’re at a high risk for falls. Falls are the number one reason why seniors are admitted to the emergency rooms, and if your parent has fallen in the past, he or she is probably fearful of it happening again. Pay close attention to how your parent is moving throughout the home. You may need to consider installing grab bars and other mobility tools in order to help your parents feel more secure in the short term.
Red flag #3: A change in personality.
Is your loved one acting strangely? Perhaps your social butterfly mother has become withdrawn and fearful to leave the house, or your sweet-tempered father has become short and snappish with people. This can be scary to witness for adult children, particularly because “personality changes” is one of the hallmarks of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. But don’t jump to that conclusion just yet. Personality changes can be anything from depression to high blood pressure to infections to medication side effects. The best thing you can do is schedule an appointment with your loved one’s doctor to figure out the cause of the changes.
Red flag #4: Becoming more isolated.
Isolation is a big problem among older adults, as is depression. Social interaction is a key part of healthy aging, and can potentially protect against cognitive decline. And let’s be honest: being lonely isn’t fun, no matter how old or young you are. If your parents are showing signs of loneliness, it could mean they need more opportunities to get out of the house and interact with friends and family.
Red flag #5: An unkempt appearance.
Bad body odor, dirty clothes, messy hair and a general unkempt appearance are sure signs that something is not right with your parent’s situation. Perhaps he or she is unable to do the laundry because it’s in the basement and falling is an issue. It could also mean the beginnings of cognitive decline – your loved one may wear the same clothes over and over because she forgot they’re dirty. Or it can mean that your loved one’s mobility is failing and they’re unable to easily get dressed or shower.
Red flag #6: An unkempt house.
We all can be messy once in a while. But if your previously fairly tidy family member suddenly has piles of unopened mail on the counter, clutter crowding the hallways, a dirty and dusty living environment and expired food in the fridge, the situation is more than a momentary lapse of housekeeping skills. Your loved one’s eyesight could be going, or it could be the beginning signs of dementia.
Red flag #7: Concerning driving habits.
Sneak a peek at your loved one’s car when you get a chance. Are there more dents and dings than before, or signs of accidents? If possible, ride in the car with your loved one to observe their driving skills. It’s possible that your loved one is at the point where driving themselves is dangerous to both themselves and the others on the road.
“Ultimately, your goal is for your loved one to live in a safe environment where they have the assistance they need to live full lives,” says Lauren. “Assisted living services at Bartley Healthcare are designed to do just that. We focus on helping our residents maintain independence by providing them tailored support and trusted care. As a maintenance-free community with a caring staff on site around the clock, we provide endless opportunities for socialization, good nutrition, entertainment and enjoyment. Many of our residents say they wish they had moved here sooner!”
Exceptional Care. Experience You Trust.
As a privately operated community, Bartley Healthcare has been a leader of health and eldercare services and maintained an excellent reputation for over 34 years.
At Bartley Healthcare, we strive to provide an exceptional care experience to all of our residents and families. Our commitment results in positive outcomes that enhance your life, no matter what services you need. From our patient and resident satisfaction surveys to our awards and accreditations, we have experience you can trust.
For more information or to schedule a private tour, contact our team today at 732-372-4055.