When it comes to discussions with your parents, there are few more awkward or uncomfortable than the sex talk or the coming out talk. Yet for adult children, there is another discussion that can be added to the list—the aging talk. Just as you likely didn't want to have the sex talk with your parents, they likely dread the discussion on aging. And while the inclination may be to procrastinate, putting off the matter for another year, there are some signs that you cannot ignore, meaning that you may have to discuss the issue now.
Is a parent withdrawing from social situations?Not everyone is an extrovert; some prefer solitude or only socializing with familiar friends. Yet some medical conditions can increase the desire to remain solitary. These conditions include depression, dementia and even hearing loss, and we will discuss this in greater detail in Friday's post, as many symptoms can overlap and one condition might mask another. Should you notice your that parent is not socializing as they once did, it might be time to ask how they are feeling, suggesting a checkup with their physician.
Has their behavior changed?The first signs of short-term memory loss appear in your 40s according to ACL's Brain Health, and unfortunately that trend doesn't reverse. In some cases cognitive decline can impact a person's well-being and independence. Perhaps the easiest way to determine whether your parents are experiencing cognitive decline is identifying whether their behavior has changed significantly. These changes can manifest in many ways, such as a news junkie who is no longer aware of current events or an unkempt house with unwatered plants and dirty floors. If you see changes that seem out of character, discuss scheduling a visit with their physician.
Do they have difficulty walking or have they fallen recently?This could be either an issue of mobility or an eyesight problem. For eyesight it is worthwhile to examine their glasses, making sure their prescription is adequate. If your loved one has difficulties with mobility, this could signal a diminishing physical ability. Fortunately, there are a number of remedies including rearranging furniture or replacing steps with ramps that can help loved ones adapt. Your physician might also suggest physical therapy exercises to retain and increase muscle strength and flexibility.
What you should know is that these signs don't necessarily mean your parents will need to leave their home. Rather, there are numerous care types available that can keep them safe and independent. Next week we'll discuss these options so you can determine how to best accommodate your loved one's lifestyle and while meeting their needs.