With the holiday season approaching, families will soon be gathering to celebrate together. Today with more miles separating us from our loved ones due to job commitments, many people may only see their elderly parents or relatives at this time of year. A year can be a long time and many elderly heath issues including mental health issues may crop up during this time that you cannot detect just from a phone call.
You may be surprised when visiting your parents or other relatives to find evidence that may lead you to suspect a decline in their physical or mental health. This may indicate they may be in need of home services for the elderly in order to remain in their homes, or it may be time to consider a residential home for the elderly for their best interests.
What to Look For
Does your relative appear to have lost weight? This could be a sign of elderly mental health or physical problem. They may be too weak or just uninterested in cooking for themselves and could benefit from home delivered meals for the elderly. Their medication may also be causing weight loss by having an effect on their appetite or changing the taste of the foods they used to enjoy. A more serious consideration may be that they are suffering from an illness such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s or depression that may be affecting their weight or their ability to cook.
Look at their prescription or over-the-counter medicine bottles for expiration dates and make a list of any medications they are on and keep it for reference if needed in an emergency. If you have concerns about what medications they are taking, discuss this with your relative, and if you still have concerns, suggest that you both visit their doctor to discuss them.
Does your relative seem to have balance problems? This may be health-related and put them at a higher risk of falls. You may want to investigate ways to improve home safety for the elderly. Some steps you can take are making sure to eliminate or move any items that may cause them to trip or fall such as unsecured rugs. You will also want to make sure any dangers are eliminated in the bathroom also. This may mean installing bars for the bathtub or a raised toilet seat to reduce the danger of falls in the bathroom.
Examine their home environment when you visit. If your parent(s) have normally kept their home neat and clean, this may be a sign that they are starting to have a decline in their physical or mental health. Are there piles of clutter, dirty laundry, or unpaid bills lying about? Is there evidence of cooking mishaps such as burned pots or scorched stoves or ovens? They may be beginning to slip in their abilities or lack the energy to do their chores on their own anymore.
What to Do if You Have Concerns
First, you do not want to insult your parent(s) or relative(s) and put them on the defensive by making them think you are going to take their independence away from them. Express that you are concerned for their wellbeing, and that you have noticed a big difference since your last visit. Suggest that you both speak to their doctors to rule out any unknown health issues. Often, declines in physical or mental health could be stemming from interactions between the medications they are taking. They may also be feeling shut off from the world and in need of social interaction. By pinpointing the causes, you are taking the first step toward improving their quality of life and in the end; your parent(s) or relative(s) will appreciate your concern for their wellbeing.