As I mentioned in my previous blog, my mother seemed to be exhibiting four of the ten warning signs:

  • Changed relationship patterns.
  • Started to have physical problems.
  • Stopped participating in activities that were once important to her.
  • Changed eating habits.

Change in relationship status

I’m not sure if the changed relationship patterns is a function of my Dad dying – he was a very sociable guy- or my mother’s predisposition to being a solitary person. Always a voracious reader, she seemed most satisfied with a stack of books, a comfortable chair and a good light to read by. She used to be more involved with her church, local clubs and a local retirement community. Those activities are gone now.

Increase in physical problems

Her declining levels of physical activity are also a kind of gray area. She broke her ankle several years ago which definitely limited her ability to get around. She has also developed Polymyositis which is a degenerative muscle condition that is definitely decreasing her physical activity. It is difficult to know how much of her decreased activity is the result of the disease and how much of it is caused by her using it as an excuse to reduce physical activity. A vicious circle kind of thing is now taking place. We encourage her to go to exercise classes at the community’s gym with her neighbor and she seemed to be going regularly. This now seems to have gone by the wayside.

Stopped participating in activities that were once important to her

Another warning sign behavior that my mother is exhibiting is “decreasing or stopping participation in activities that were once important to her.” She no longer goes to church – “too hard to get into the building”,  she no longer reads to the shut ins in her community – “too many are dying”, she rarely visits with friends – “a bunch of complainers”, and she no longer goes to the town recreation center to exercise and swim – “too embarrassing with her present physical condition.” Every time we talk about these things, she has more reasons for not doing them than I have for doing them other than the old standby “because it is good for you”. Every now and then I get some agreement – of course I wonder if it is a passive/aggressive agreement and she has no intention of doing what we were talking about.   

Changed eating habits

My mother’s diet is a growing concern. I recognize that as we get older our appetites change. My mother’s situation is compounded by her illness because it influences the muscles in her throat making swallowing difficult. We have tried to work around this by encouraging her to drink more protein beverages and she likes making smoothies with a variety of different ingredients. Her weight continues to drop though. I feel a geriatric nutritionist is in our future.

A thought that is just occurring to me though is that I want our visits to be more enjoyable. I still ask pointed questions regarding the warning signs but I am backing off pressuring her about exercising, socializing and diet. She has earned the right to make her decisions and I feel that my role now is to encourage her to live a little and have fun and yet understand that poor decisions will still have poor results.