When I first got involved with my mother’s care, it was because I wanted to help her get organized and reduce the stress that comes with worrying about whether her affairs were in order. She was concerned that my brothers and sisters and I would have a mess to deal with and clear up. Based on the research that I have done since I became involved, I know that I am lucky. Lucky that my mother wants to “set things up” so that all my brothers and sisters and I would have to do would be to follow the plan that she put in place.
Another reason I got more involved is because every time I visited her she would always point to a pile of documents prominently displayed on a side table in the entry area and remind me that these documents included her will, funeral arrangements and anything else associated with her increasing age and declining health. Every visit without fail. If I could just get her to move this pile of documents out of public display, I would feel that I had been helpful.
As I visited with my mom, I started noticing things that would leave me wondering “should I be concerned?” I asked myself this question more and more after each visit. This question was soon followed by “what am I supposed to be looking for?”
I found an answer to the last question. There seems to be a consensus that the following ten “warning signs” are universal indicators that an older adult may need assistance.
These ten warning signs are:
- Changed eating habits, resulting in losing weight, having no appetite, or missing meals.
- Neglected personal hygiene, including wearing dirty clothes and having body odor, bad breath, neglected nails and teeth or sores on the skin.
- Neglected their home, with a noticeable change in cleanliness and sanitation.
- Exhibited inappropriate behavior, such as being unusually loud, quiet, paranoid, or agitated, or making phone calls at all hours.
- Changed relationship patterns, causing friends and neighbors to express concerns.
- Had physical problems, such as burns or injury marks, which may result from general weakness, forgetfulness, or misuse of alcohol or prescribed medications.
- Decreased or stopped participating in activities that were once important to them such as bridge or a book club, dining with friends, or attending religious services.
- Exhibited forgetfulness, resulting in unopened mail, piling up of newspapers, not filling their prescriptions or missing appointments.
- Mishandled finances, such as not paying bills, losing money, paying bills twice or more, or hiding money.
- Made unusual purchases, such as buying more than one subscription to the same magazine, entering an unusually large number of contests, or increasing purchases from television advertisements.
These warning signs are pretty straight forward and don’t need a lot of explanation. Your observations and interpretations are what is most important.
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, and
• Changed eating habits.
More on my mother in my next blog post.
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