As your parents age, how do you distinguish normal aging from abnormal aging? Here are some warning signs that your parents may be suffering from mental and/or physical decline and need help. This is not an easy thing to face, for either the parents (no one want to lose their independence) or the children (admitting the person who always took care of you now needs your help); however, taking a “head in the sand” approach will not resolve the issue and could result in things getting much worse.
Here are some signs that your parents may need some form of assistance, be it someone coming to the house on a regular basis, or moving to a residential care facility:
- Uncertainty and confusing when performing once-familiar tasks
- Unexplained bruising
- Poor personal hygiene
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Difficulty with walking, balance, and mobility
- Stacks of unopened mail or an overflowing mailbox
- Late payment notices, bounced checks, and calls from collections
- Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
- Diagnosis of dementia, including Alzheimer’s
- Spoiled or expired groceries that don’t get thrown away
These are just a few examples; there are many more. In reality, any noticeable change in their behavior, or appearance could be a sign. “Change” is important here – if your parents were never great bookkeepers, then stacks of unopened mail may not be a sign of mental or physical decline. If, however, they always paid their bills by the due date and never left unopened mail laying around the house, then those same stacks of mail could be indicative of something else going on.
Ideally, families will have conversations with their children well before any decline occurs, but this is not often the case. Sometimes a parent doesn’t recognize they need help; sometimes won’t admit it. That’s where you come in. Approach them with love and respect, reassuring them that you want to help promote their health and well-being (both today and in the future). Make sure they understand your concerns and proposed solutions.
It is also important to remember that you don’t have to do this alone. I am here to support you and your entire family through this process, wherever you may be on your journey, and in whatever capacity I can best be of service. If you have any questions or comments, please call or email me. It is my honor to serve you and your loved ones navigate these challenging transitions.
Cheri Elson, J.D.
Gray Matters Consulting
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