NextAvenue.org spoke with Amy Fuchs, an elder care consultant and licensed social worker from Saddle River N.J., about ways to notice the changes facing your aging parents or loved ones.
Fuchs says that "the two biggest reasons for geriatric decline are depression and dementia". This can be the result of them feeling lonely and isolated often after the recent death of their friends. Fuchs continues, "their friends are dying around them, and they're fully aware they can't do what they used to do".
Spotting the signs of early onset dementia can be quite difficult. This can even become more difficult if you do not live near your parents or they want to stay in their home to avoid an assisted living situation.
Fuchs and NextAvenue.org recommend seven common signs to watch for:
Piles of Unpaid Bills
Bill paying is one of the first tasks that your loved ones will begin to struggle with. Letting their unpaid bills pile up can either be a sign of dementia setting in, or a sign of disorganization.
House is Dusty
Their home may start to become cluttered and grimy because their mobility and vision have decreased. They may simply be unable to see the growing grime and dirt. Especially if "they can't bend down anymore, they just leave things that fall, so things pile up". Letting their home become cluttered and unclean is a potential tripping and health hazard.
Lack of Fresh, Healthy Food
Check their refrigerator's food for spoiled food or a lack of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. If they begin to only eat boxed and canned foods that can be a sign that taking care of themselves has become a challenge. Also, watch out for unexplained signs of weight loss.
This will require a closer inspection, but its a common task to struggle with, right behind bill-paying. Look at their pill box to see if any doses have been missed. This could be a sign of taking too many doses or too few of doses which can be extremely dangerous.
"A Distinct Odor"
Your loved one's personal hygiene has become a lower priority for a variety of reasons, mobility, dementia, or keeping up with laundry. Sometimes seniors are afraid to bath because of a fear of falling.
Fuchs says "Seniors tend to bruise more easily, so the signs show up more". If you see a bruise on your loved one's body that means they may have fallen and are afraid to tell you. Fuchs also recommends observing how they walk around their living space. If they have to hold onto walls or furniture as they walk, this may be a sign that they're unsteady on their feet and may need a cane or walked.
Car Has New Damage
During the aging process our reaction time will begin to slow and turning your head to monitor blind spots becomes more difficult. Dementia can also cause fender benders or sideswipes in parking lots. Monitor the outside of their car for any signs of trouble.
If you see any signs for alarm, AgingCare's editor-in-chief Ashley Huntsberry-Lett recommends a candid, discussion without taking complete control. It is important to find out what areas your loved one is having difficulty with and how you can help. Choose the non-negotiable ares, for example letting the grime pass but not allowing them to miss bill payments every month.