How you know when your parents need more support
family portrait of two elderly parents, their grown children, and grandchildren outside in the sunshine

We like to think of people at their best. There’s Mom carving a turkey. Dad catching kids as they leap into a pool. There are family vacations and tiny, everyday moments that you treasure. But now that they’re getting older, those good moments can seem harder to find—especially when you contrast them with the past.

But just because your parents are aging doesn’t mean that your time together is coming to an end. This is a new chapter in all your lives. Bringing in a professional caregiver to help them out with certain tasks they’re having trouble with will give you the opportunity to focus more on the good.

Is it time for you to think about elderly care for a parent? Here are six signs that your loved one is ready for a little extra help.

Their routine has changed significantly

Are they letting the dog out in the backyard instead of walking them through the neighborhood? Have they stopped grabbing lunch with a group of retired friends? Are they spending more time in front of the television and less puttering in the garden?

A shift in daily routine can be normal. It could be the result of a minor injury or a confrontation with a former friend. Shifts that are seasonal or temporary should be monitored, but change isn’t necessarily a bad thing—especially if one routine is replaced with another that is equally active or social. It becomes a problem, though, when old routines give way to new ones that are isolated, unstimulating or idle.

They’re becoming anxious, uncomfortable or uninterested in activities they used to love

A single fall, a half-forgotten technique, an uncharacteristic mistake–that’s all it takes to turn a beloved hobby into an activity you no longer want to bother with. That’s true for lots of people, but it’s particularly common for seniors on the cusp of needing elderly care.

It’s not an unexpected reaction. Think about it: It’s the same behavior most people exhibit when they feel like they’ve called attention to themselves in a negative way. Regardless of age, when we feel ashamed, we want to avoid the activity in question as much as we can. If it’s happening to your parents, it’s a sign that they may need some extra help to power through it.

Their personality has changed

When your mental and physical abilities change, it can be disorienting, embarrassing and depressing. If your loved ones are experiencing difficulties in how they think or what they’re able to do in their daily lives, their reaction to that change will probably show up in the way they behave toward you and others.

Both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease cause abrupt attitude changes. One moment, your parent will seem completely normal. The next, they’re upset, frightened, confused or angry. Emotional outbursts and mood swings are a strong indicator that there’s underlying cause you need professional help managing.

Their home isn’t as clean or tidy as it was

Keeping up with a clean house is difficult for most people on a good week. Once aging sets in, though, the tasks that your parents used to knock out in a few hours—dusting, mopping, vacuuming and laundry—can become too strenuous to handle on their own.

It will be easy to tell when this becomes a reality for your loved ones. There will be more dishes in the sink. Furniture will look worn. Dust will collect in the corners and floors will be noticeably dirty underfoot. Your parents might push themselves too hard and risk injury to keep up with the chores, so minding these details is essential to their health and safety.

They aren’t taking care of their hygiene or appearance

Sometimes, you might notice mom and dad aren’t showering or brushing their teeth. As bodies age, personal grooming habits become more difficult. It might be impossible for your senior to step into a tub, to scrub their hair or to manipulate a toothbrush.

Be on the lookout for big changes, like skipping or skimping on makeup, poorly kept nails, oily hair and ragged clothes. To put off asking for help, seniors will often try to disguise their poor personal grooming habits. One example of this is wearing cologne or perfume to cover up body odor.

Remember: Admitting that you can’t maintain your hygiene or dress properly is especially humiliating. Accepting assistance makes you vulnerable. Be gentle when you address these concerns and patient as you work through them.

You’re worried about them every day—and it’s impacting your life

Stress is a killer. If you’re constantly wondering if your parents are okay, if they’re eating right, if they’re taking their medication on time, if they’re bathing, if they’re getting out of the house, if they’ve made it to their doctor’s appointment—all that worry can have detrimental effects on your own health and well-being. It also cuts in on the time you spend with your spouse, your kids and your friends.

If your parents are capable of living alone, there are some excellent response systems that you can install for peace of mind. Even without a landline, your loved ones can have access to immediate emergency care should they ever need it.

Still, a system isn’t a replacement for a caregiver. If any of these signs are true for you and your senior loved ones, it’s time to start thinking about your elderly care options. Help them go back to living the life they love. Even part-time, in-home assistance can ease your mind and make independent living easier and more enjoyable for your parents.

Susan Ashby joined the Superior Senior Care team in July of 2014 as Community Relations Manager. With over 27 years of experience in geriatric health, Susan brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to Superior Senior Care and plays an integral part in connecting consumers and communities with resources for independent living.

Written by Guest Author
The Caregiver Space accepts contributions from experts for The Caregiver's Toolbox and provides a platform for all caregivers in Caregiver Stories. Please read our author guidelines for more information and use our contact form to submit guest articles.

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