It is an unfortunate reality that as people grow older, we have to start preparing for age-related health changes. Joints may become stiff with arthritis, bone and muscle mass may be lost, and there may be a decline in hearing, eyesight and cognitive function. Minor changes in the health of an elderly parent may not at first seem like something that would affect that person’s ability to live independently; however, the cumulative total of many small changes may have a major impact. Below our estate planning attorneys in Orange County have drawn out seven signs that your aging parent may need help:
Withdrawal From Activities
If your elderly parent regularly participated in specific activities, but has suddenly become more isolated, it may indicate that he or she can no longer successfully complete the activities or keep up with conversations. However, it may also be an indication of hearing loss, failing eyesight or physical pain. Withdrawal from regular activities could also point to possible memory issues or cognitive decline.
There are many reasons your formerly meticulous parent may suddenly have a messy house. He or she may be unable to physically perform certain cleaning tasks, or it could be the result of poor vision: it is difficult to clean properly if the person cannot clearly see the area. Messy surroundings may also indicate memory problems.
Poor hygiene may be a sign that your parent is struggling with cognitive decline. If your mother or father appears unwashed or with uncombed hair or bad breath, it may be a sign that these hygiene tasks are being forgotten. However, an unkempt appearance may also indicate that it is physically difficult for the person to complete these personal care tasks without assistance.
Cognitive changes may be the culprit if your parent frequently forgets where he or she placed objects or consistently misses scheduled appointments. Of course, such things occasionally happen to everyone, young and old. Nevertheless, if this behavior is chronic, it could be a sign of cognitive impairment.
Broken side mirrors, cracked tail lights, or dented fenders are all signs that at least one minor traffic accident may have occurred. Older individuals may have trouble driving for various reasons. These include vision problems, cognitive decline, or even the presence of arthritis in the neck, which may make it difficult for the person to look behind when backing up or coming on or off exits.
If your elderly parent suddenly has unexplained bruises, cuts and scrapes, it could mean mobility problems are occurring. Slips and falls that do not cause serious injuries may still result in such marks on the skin. The source of any noticeable bruising should be investigated to determine if mobility is an issue or if there is another reason for bruises of scrapes on the skin.
Failure to Take Medications as Prescribed
You may have an aging parent with health conditions for which drugs were prescribed. If your parent previously took all medications in a timely manner, but suddenly there are too many or too few of certain prescription pills, it may be a sign of cognitive impairment, particularly if it happens on a regular basis.
Regardless of the reason for your concern about an elderly parent, it is always best to have any type of unusual behavior or signs of physical problems evaluated by a licensed geriatric practitioner.