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The last time you visited your mom or dad, everything seemed fine. But this time, you’re noticing small changes in their mood, behavior and surroundings that have you feeling concerned. It’s a circumstance that a lot of adult children will recognize: the moment you realize your aging parent’s health is changing…and that they may need more support than you can provide alone.
At first, considering a move to assisted living may feel like a big leap. After all, you’re not even sure there’s a problem; you may be overreacting to natural signs of aging. But the earlier you recognize and address the signs that an older adult needs help, the easier it will be for your family to solve problems, protect their health and independence, and make realistic plans for the future.
Here are 12 questions you can ask yourself today that can help you decide if now is the right time to start seriously considering your mom or dad’s senior care options.
#1: Do they keep their home and body clean and cared for? Dirty clothes, messy hair, unusual clutter, spoiled groceries in the fridge. Pay attention when you spot signs of poor personal hygiene or home maintenance. They’re often the first indications that a loved one needs help.
#2: Are they eating regularly and well? Good nutrition is vital for a healthy body, but food can be less appetizing and more challenging to prepare for older adults who are experiencing changes like new medications, fatigue, dulled senses of smell and taste or depression.
#3: Is their thinking still clear and decisive? Forgetting a name or misplacing our keys? We’ve all been there. But if you notice your loved one is having problems concentrating or making decisions, experiencing confusion and lapses in short-term memory, or struggling with vocabulary and familiar tasks, you may be seeing early signs of memory loss.
#4: Do they need help with routine chores? A lot of daily tasks get harder when we get older. But when routine chores like taking out the garbage, changing light bulbs or grocery shopping become too much of a risk, your loved one may need additional support.
#5: Are you seeing signs of confusion, anxiety, loneliness, aggression or mood swings? Mental health issues are common among adults aged 55 and older, and sadly, often go undiagnosed. Changes in personality and behavior could be signs of depression, dementia or a late-onset mental disorder that requires treatment and supportive, specialized care.
#6: Do they sleep a lot? Sleep patterns change as we get older, and certain medications and underlying medical conditions can make older adults sleepy. Just make sure their daytime fatigue doesn’t interfere with personal care and nutrition, and consider whether the structure of a senior community life could help your loved balance rest with an active mind and body.
#7: Can they manage their finances? If you’re noticing stacks of unopened mail, late payment notices or calls from collection agencies, your parent or loved one may having trouble with the memory and organizational skills necessary to manage details, work with numbers and stay on top of their own finances. And that leaves them vulnerable.
#8: Do they get out of the house? Whether an older adult is spending time volunteering or pursuing hobbies, visiting with friends or doing a little shopping, daily mental stimulation and physical activity help keep us young. Staying put may be a sign of of physical or emotional challenges like depression, chronic pain or illness.
#9: Do they seek medical care when it’s needed? Memory issues and underlying health conditions can affect an older adult’s ability to perceive health risks, recognize their body’s needs and manage their own medications and care. Make sure your mom or dad is willing and able to seek necessary care and follow a doctor’s advice.
#10: Can they move safely around their own home, property and neighborhood? Your parent or loved one may never tell you their house is too large, their stairways are too steep, or that driving around town has gotten nerve-racking or confusing. Look for unexplained bruises or dents in their car, and consider installing assistive tools like grab bars, shower seats and more.
#11: Are they spending time with family and friends? Loneliness and isolation can have a devastating affect on an individual’s health at any age. Staying connected with family, giving and receiving friendship and support, and spending time in person with others are important practices for your mom or dad’s mental and physical health.
#12: As a caregiver, are you always on alert? Being a caregiver is stressful. But if you’re experiencing mood swings or sleeplessness and always feel braced for a family emergency, it may be a sign that you’re stretched too thin and your loved one needs more care than you alone can provide.
When is the right time to join a senior living community? The answer is different for everyone. But if that day arrives, your family will want to be ready. You’ll need time to consider your loved one’s needs and budget, research your options, and make a confident choice. Starting early helps. To get started, connect with a BrightStar Senior Living community near you today to learn more about assisted living.