How do you know when it's time to get help? Physicians and geriatric social workers warn that there are a number of danger signs that indicate an elderly person needs extra help or a change in living arrangement. Any marked change in personality or behavior should be heeded. However, given the drastic nature of the solution, no lifestyle change should be made without discussions with the elderly person, other family members, and doctors or other health professionals.
These are signs to look for if you are unsure if it is time to consider looking at assisted living or nursing homes facilities for a parent or other loved one. Here are danger signals that a lifestyle change may be in order:
The refrigerator has a lot of spoiled food or is empty. Sudden weight loss which could be an indication that the elderly person is simply not eating or having difficulty shopping and preparing food.
Requiring help with activities of daily living, or at risk for falls. Examples include: difficulty taking their medications, dressing or feeding themselves, keeping up on hygiene or you notice difficulties with mobility.
Burns or frequent bruising are often signs of poor mobility, falling or balance problems Could indicate that your parent is no longer able to recognize danger to themselves.
Increased car accidents can be indicative of slowed reflexes, poor vision, physical weakness, or general inability to handle a vehicle.
Short term memory impairment. Example include: not paying bills, missing appointments, or consistently forgetting name, address, phone number, and meal times.
Are they isolating themselves? Seniors can isolate themselves for many reasons. In some cases they can't recognize others or they have difficulty following conversations
Extreme suspiciousness which could indicate some thought disorder. E.g. thinking that their neighbors, friends, family, doctor, and lawyer are all conspiring against them would be an example. Intense ungrounded fears about dire consequences may be a danger signal.
A series of small fires could be caused by dozing off, forgetting to turn off the stove or appliances, or carelessness with matches. They may indicate blackouts or dizzy spells.
Bizarre behavior of any kind. This behavior could be dressing inappropriately for the weather condition, wearing the same clothes over and over. Watch for uncharacteristic actions or speech.
Disorientation of a consistent nature. Examples include not knowing who one is, where one is, who the family is, or talking to people who are not there.
Depression is common in senior citizens who are often alone and isolated. However, depression paired with other indicators could be a sign that it is time to consider assisted living facilities.
People trying to hang on to independence are often aware that something is wrong, and they are becoming forgetful, but they don't let anyone know, yet they are afraid of what is happening. However, ignoring the warning signs means that more serious consequences are likely to follow.
Once you make the decision that it is in fact time, what's the next step? Start to do research, get a geriatric assessment, check assisted care options around your area, find out pricing, talk to your other family members, consider meeting with an assisted living counselor or care manager and create a plan. This will help reduce the stress and help you to make the best decision for your loved one. You can find resources listed for all of these on our Elder Resources page.
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