Deciding whether it’s time for aging parents to stop living alone can be difficult. You don’t want to wait too long until after a major incident has occurred and done irreversible harm, but sometimes the early signs of a growing problem can be subtle. To make sure your parents get the care they need when they need it, keep an eye out for the following signs that your aging parents should no longer live alone.
1. Difficult recoveries
If your aging parent’s last brush with illness or injury led to a longer-than-usual recovery, this can be a strong indication that their health is starting to fail. As we age, we lose our ability to bounce back from poor health. This is important to take into account, as even a mild injury or ailment can become a long-term drain on an elderly person’s well being. To avoid these types of lengthy recoveries and their detrimental impacts, it might be a good idea to start looking at alternatives to living alone.
2. Signs of dementia
Any sign of dementia should be taken extremely seriously. Forgetfulness, losing track of events or items or general disorientation can all spell danger for your aging parent without the proper supervision and help. It only takes a moment for a forgotten stove burner to start a major fire, for example.
If you even slightly suspect that your parent might be suffering from the early stages of dementia, you owe it to them to help them seek diagnosis, treatment and the proper senior care, whether assisted living, in-home care, or another daily care arrangement.
3. Recent accidents
There are a lot of little accidents that might not mean much on their own but can combine to paint a worrisome picture for elders living alone. For example, if you notice new dings and dents on your parent’s car, it’s probably time to join them on a ride to see how their driving looks.
If they’ve become prone to falls or stumbles, they may need help getting around the house or may need to move to an easier-to-navigate home. If you see signs that accidents are becoming a regular occurrence in your parent’s life, it might be time to talk about outside assistance.
4. Weight fluctuations
If your parent is experiencing serious changes in their weight, you should keep a close eye on how they’re doing. This includes both weight loss or gain, as either one can herald a host of health problems, psychiatric issues, or neurological problems, especially if there’s no easy explanation for the change. Difficulties preparing the same meals they used to make routinely or getting as much exercise as they previously did should be taken as warning signs.
5. Poor hygiene and personal care
If a parent who previously paid close attention to their appearance begins to slack on fixing their hair, makeup or other normal grooming before leaving the house, it may be a sign of deteriorating physical or mental health. You should also be alert to changes in hygiene; if your parent is no longer brushing their teeth, bathing regularly, or washing their clothes, it’s a huge red flag. These problems will only grow worse with time, and can complicate, encourage, or create health issues if left unaddressed.
6. Social withdrawal
If your parent has suddenly begun making excuses to avoid social outings, stopped attending church, hasn’t seen friends in a while, or has otherwise shown signs of social withdrawal, you should pay attention. Not only will getting out less worsen or exacerbate their general well being, it’s a potential sign of cognitive decline or depression.
Normally people do not, as a rule, stop socializing without reason—and in most cases, the underlying reason is something you should be worried about. The health benefits and social engagement of assisted living or a home care companion can be exactly what a withdrawn parent needs to return to their normal social activities and start thriving again.
7. Financial problems
When you visit your parent, do you spot unpaid bill warning notices in the mail? Do you have to help your parents make ends meet where they previously had no problems? These can be signs of deteriorating health and may indicate that the time for living alone has ended, as forgetfulness, apathy, and other problems begin to take a serious toll on their bank account. In some cases, forgotten expenses, scams, and other issues can add up to larger financial problems.
You should think long and hard about the best interests of your aging parents and the rest of your family when considering senior care options. It’s better to have these conversations with your parent early on. That way, you can honestly discuss the potential pitfalls associated with living alone and the perils of ignoring them before any cognitive problems develop.