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Seven signs your aging loved ones need additional care

It can be difficult to know when an aging parent or loved one needs additional care. Here are a few signs that may be noted.

1. Mismanagement of medication. Refills are not ordered or there are leftover pills when they should be gone. For example, your mom might have leftover pills when the bottle should be empty and it's been 45 days since the prescription was last filled.

2. Driving accidents or getting lost while driving. There is confusion with directions when driving to and from familiar locations. Your loved one runs through a stop sign even if he or she is used to the area simply because they didn't notice the stop sign. Or, there is increased confusion on what to do when driving in construction, such as if one lane is closed, even in his or her neighborhood.

3. Signs of not eating well and overall trouble with meals. You notice your parents are losing weight and there is no healthy food in the refrigerator or pantry. They have a preference for eating cereal or other "easy" foods or have trouble preparing meals.

4. Missing medical appointments. Your loved one forgets to schedule or puts off scheduling medical appointments or simply does not show up for existing appointments. 

5. General forgetfulness. You come to visit your mom and find she left the stove on and burnt up the teapot. She changes her story about what actually happened or gives a fancy explanation for why the teapot burned and how it wasn't her fault. Or she calls you repeatedly with questions you recently answered.

6. Injuries they can't explain. Your dad has a new bruise or a cut and cannot tell you how or when the injury occurred.

7. Basic household duties and cleaning not being done. You notice dishes piling up in the sink or the garbage has not been taken out. This is especially concerning if your loved one does not recognize the need to clean. Look for any evidence of pets being neglected, such as pets losing weight, the litter box not being cleaned or pets having accidents in the house. If you learn that bills are going unpaid or your parents have fallen for a phone scam, these are signs they aren't thinking clearly.

So now that you know the signs, what should you do?  

First, bring your loved one to see his or her doctor for an evaluation to make sure medications are being dosed properly and there is not a medical problem that can be resolved. The next step might be further evaluation, such as a driving test. Depending on the results and the needs identified, you might want to begin researching options for help. For example: 

  • meals and cleaning, which can be provided through services
  • home health services to help with medications and medical appointments
  • you can begin to handle paying bills
  • transportation can be arranged when driving is no longer safe

Talking to your loved one about getting help can be difficult and uncomfortable. If your loved one has a doctor who he or she knows and trusts, the doctor can help you have these discussions or lead the discussions. The doctor can suggest personalized options based on his or her knowledge of your loved one's history. Sometime having this discussion come from a doctor can carry more authority, and the doctor can often explain the needs for care based on medical results. For example, if your mom has early dementia, her doctor can show her how her health has changed and explain the dangers if she does not get help.


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