Millions of Canadians provide physical, emotional, social, and financial assistance to aging loved ones from a distance. This means that a substantial number of family caregivers rely on regular phone call conversations and check-ins by relatives or friends that live close by to see how a loved one is doing.
Sadly, age-related decline can happen quite quickly & in many cases, seniors are determined to hide or downplay any new/worsening issues they might have. For several families, holiday visits are one of the only opportunities they have to see aging loved ones in person, so it’s important to pay close attention to their physical and mental health, alongside their living environment.
This holiday might be different with COVID-19, which is why it’s extra important to look for the following warning signs that a loved one may need some extra help at home.
Signs of Decline with Aging
One of the most obvious signs of ill health is weight loss. Possible causes could include cancer, dementia, depression, and even loneliness of cooking for one. Seniors may also experience lower energy levels or fatigue, which can make it challenging to grocery shop and prepare healthful meals, and then clean up afterwards is tough at any age. A senior might see all this effort unnecessary, especially if they live and eat alone. Certain medications alongside aging in general can also trigger a lack of appetite and change the way food tastes. If weight loss is obvious, talk to your loved one about your concerns and schedule a doctor’s appointment to talk about senior living options where there are fresh prepared meals daily provided by a quality and certified chef.
Balance and Mobility Changes
Make note of the way your loved one moves and how they walk in their homes or your environment. A hesitancy to walk, changes in gait or noticeable pain during movement can be a sign of joint, muscle or neurological problems. If your loved one is unsteady on their feet, they may be a fall risk! If you notice changes in a senior’s mobility or coordination, make an appointment with their doctor to discuss options for keeping them safe and mobile, such as pain management, physical therapy, or possibly moving into a safe senior living community like The Manor Villages. If limited mobility is not addressed, fears of falling can cause seniors to withdraw and stop participating in daily activities both inside and outside the home. Be prepared that minimized activity can actually cause elders to become weaker and even more susceptible to falls. Senior Living Communities like The Manor Villages help engage seniors in exercises and physical activities in a safe environment.
Mood / Behaviour
Watch for fluctuations in mood and behaviours. You can’t always determine someone’s emotional situation by phone, even if you speak daily. Look for signs of depression and anxiety, this includes lack of their regular from social activities, changes in sleep routines, loss of interest in hobbies, and changes in basic home maintenance and cleanliness – including expired foods! The last point can indicate cognitive decline or other physical conditions such as dehydration, which often shows in the Winter months and can be serious for seniors. If you notice unexpected odd behaviours in your loved one, like confusion or anxiety, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. These are common symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is prevalent in seniors and easily resolved with antibiotics.
Consideration should also be paid to a senior’s surroundings. For instance, if your loved one has always been a perfectionist for tidiness or paying bills on time, and you find clutter, hoarding and stacks of mail during your visit, this shows there is a problem. Walk through of their home during your visit to see if they’re keeping the house to their usual standards. Note that sometimes the signs of problems are a bit more sublte. Burnt cookware could indicate that your loved one has forgotten food on the stove / in the oven. Overflowing hampers could mean they don’t have the strength or want to do laundry. Check the expiration dates on their prescriptions and try to determine if they’re taking their medications as prescribed. Know their regular habits and go with your gut if something seems off.