Many elderly people are reluctant to share their health concerns, even with their children. For those of us involved in the care of a parent, or any other elderly person, it is important to be aware of the following red flags that suggest that the elder is not doing well. These signs are especially important if we can only visit these people infrequently.
1. Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
Unexplained weight loss is often a red flag for a serious underlying illness. Even when the weight loss is not caused by a serious illness, it can be a sign of depression, or a reflection of the individual’s loss of independence: their inability to take proper care of themselves. A lack of proper nutrition can also accelerate an elderly person’s decline.
2. Proper appearance
When visiting an elderly person, one of the first things that we should be aware of is their appearance. Are they clean? Are their clothes clean? Is their hair properly combed? Do their nails need to be trimmed? If any of these aspects of self-care are not as they should be, it is a red flag that something is wrong.
Individuals who were formerly well groomed, but are no longer so, may be suffering from depression or an early stage of dementia. Another possible explanation for these changes is that a physical ailment may have made it difficult or painful for the person to take care of themselves.
In order not to compromise their pride, any questions should be asked in a respectful and tactful manner, but these issues should not be ignored.
A certain degree of memory loss is a common aspect of aging process. However, when people begin forgetting important pieces of information, or are unable to remember important events in their life, we should be aware of the possibility of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. As with most diseases, the earlier a proper diagnosis is confirmed, the better the prognosis for the patient.
Even less drastic signs of memory loss, for example getting lost in a familiar place or an inability to find the right words to express an idea, should raise a red flag for us. In some cases, it is best to merely note the behavior and keep a close watch on it, rather than immediately rushing to the doctor, potentially alarming the person you are trying to protect. However, when we see a clear or accelerated decline, the time for visiting a doctor has arrived.
4. Social life and isolation
Elderly people, especially those who have lost their spouse, can become isolated from those around them. The loneliness and the inability to share their lives with people can be extremely painful. Isolation is a major cause of depression and anxiety.
People with dementia often fear social situations, since they may be put in positions where their inability to remember facts and events will be apparent to those around them. If we are aware that the social habits of our elderly loved one has changed, we should try to determine the reason for this change. Continual answers like, “I’m just not in the mood,” should raise a red flag. Being involved with other people is fundamental to staying psychologically healthy.
5. Mobility and safety
Falling is the main way in which elderly people lose their independence. It is important to note if the people we care about are having more trouble moving around the house or apartment where they live. Do they seem to lose their balance more frequently? Do they need to lean on tables or against the wall in order to provide support as they move from one place to another? If the answers to any of these questions is yes, then steps need to be taken to ensure their safety.
For those who are walking independently, it might be time for a cane. For those using a cane, it might be time for a walker. And for those using a walker, it might be time for a wheelchair. Although they might be resistant, it is exceedingly important to help them avoid falling.
Another important aspect of this situation whether their environment is suited to their current physical abilities. For example, steps may no longer be possible, or there might be too many objects in the environment to make walking safe.
Clearly, visits to a doctor are important. But, our concern for our aging parent or relative, along with our knowledge of their baseline behavior and our attention to the details mentioned above can be far more important. We will often notice something long before a doctor would have noticed it. By being alert, we can help ensure a higher quality of life, over a longer period of time, for those we care about.
If your loved one is no longer safe to live in their house, it may be time to consider a facility that is convenient and will care for them in comfort.
Atlantic Coast Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center is conveniently located in scenic Lakewood, NJ, close to major medical centers and just minutes from area highways.
Our beautiful nursing home and rehab center is situated on beautifully landscaped grounds, and provides the comfortable and pleasant living experience that is essential to ensuring optimal clinical outcomes. We have strived to create an environment and program that truly enhances quality of life, thus promoting recuperation, health, and well-being.
Our modern facility features spacious living spaces that are impeccably decorated and furnished. Our residents are pampered with the finest amenities, including free WIFI, flat screen cable television and state-of-the-art mechanical beds for individualized comfort.
Our master chef and the entire staff of culinary experts prepare delicious meals to please even the most discerning palates. Our meals are not only delicious, they are also elegantly served, using fine china and utensils. In addition, we have a registered dietician to supervise the process to ensure that all meals conform to the individual dietary restrictions and requirements for every resident.
At Atlantic Coast, our goal is to offer recreational activities that stimulate both mind and body. We fashion each day’s recreation schedule with the primary purpose of encouraging social interaction and promoting physical health and fitness. To accommodate different interests and personal preferences, our Activities Director designs flexible schedules, with a variety of stimulating and engaging activity options.