It's tough to acknowledge that our bodies become slower and less agile with each passing year. It is even more difficult to watch the same thing happen to members of our family. Maybe Mom doesn't take walks like she used to or Dad can't mow the lawn anymore.
It may be tempting to just pass these things off as a normal part of aging, but sometimes the best thing we can do for our families is acknowledge that there is a problem and help get them the assisted living services they need to remain safe and independent for as long as possible.
Below is a checklist of things to look for next time you visit your parent to help determine if there are physical or mobility problems where either assisted living or home care could help. If you think your family member may be dealing with cognitive issues or memory-loss check out our checklist on recognizing potential mental impairment issues.
1. Does your family member's skin feel soft and have a normal color?
Dry, cracked skin can be a sign of dehydration. Prolonged dehydration can have serious consequences for the elderly. Skin should feel supple and not appear red or irritated. Also, be on the lookout for unusual tearing or bruising. Wounds heal more slowly with age and put seniors at greater risk for infection. Bruising may indicate balance or vision problems - your family member may be bumping into furniture or doors they can't see.
2. Can your family member see clearly?
Vision loss can be a significant barrier to remaining independent. Your family member may no longer be able to drive safely which impacts their ability to go food shopping or attend doctor's appointments. They may no longer be able to read their medications and may not be taking their medications in the right dosages. Pay attention to whether a senior can read street signs or labels or are able to read newspaper or books.
3. Can your family member hear you?
Loss of hearing can significantly decrease a senior's quality of life. Hearing aids may be required for the senior to understand instructions from doctors or pharmacists, or even more importantly, hear smoke or fire alarms. When you speak with your family member, are they able to understand you at a normal tone of voice? Do they respond if you call them and their back is turned toward you? Many hearing-impaired seniors read lips as a way of communicating which can sometimes mask problems.
4. Is there food in the refrigerator?
The amount of healthy, fresh food in the home is a good indicator of whether a senior is well nourished and able to accomplish basic tasks such as cooking and grocery shopping. You should check to see if the refrigerator or pantry is well stocked with nutritious items, and that containers have current expiration dates. Make sure food does not smell bad or have mold growing on it. You should determine if your family member can properly navigate the kitchen and safely handle potentially hazardous appliances.
5. Are medications current and being taken regularly?
Mixing up or not taking prescribed medications can severely impact a senior's health. Take note of the number of medications and whether or not they are prescribed by several physicians. Risk of taking the wrong medication increases with a higher number of medications or doctors. Check to make sure the medications are not expired. This could indicate that your family member has not been keeping their regular doctor's appointments. Professional assisted care can help prevent potentially devastating mix-ups and make sure your family member is attending their scheduled appointments.
If, after analyzing the situation, you feel that your loved one may need assisted living services, there are many long-term care options available which will allow them to remain independent within a safe setting.
Written by senior housing writer Jacqui Howell.