Taking a look at some of the top things to look out for and early warning signs of deteriorating health. How to know what to look for when making a diagnosis.
If you had to pick one older relative who shouldn’t be driving anymore, who would it be? Do you think that they’re safe, living alone and still getting behind the wheel of a car?
There are more than 45 million seniors in the United States, a number that’s set to double in the next 40 years. As the Baby Boomers reach retirement age, it’s up to their children and grandchildren to look for early warning signs of serious illness.
If you’re concerned about your loved one, this article’s for you. We’ll show you how to spot health problems and signs of abuse.
Drastic Personality Changes
When you see someone on a regular basis, it’s hard to spot personality changes. Some changes are like hair growth, happening so slowly that your brain ceases to pay attention.
What you’re looking for is uncharacteristic outbursts, powerful anger, or even a sense of resignation. You might want to talk to your loved one’s friends or colleagues to see if they’ve noticed a change.
Anger that seems to come up suddenly can be a sign of early dementia. Surprisingly, outbursts of laughter are also a sign of Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
Of course, anger isn’t always a sign of deterioration. Some older adults are just frustrated that they can’t get around like they used to. They may feel disconnected from friends and family and they may feel depressed.
That’s why it’s important to take personality changes on a case-by-case basis and not jump to conclusions.
Dramatic Weight Loss
If you are cleared to talk to your loved one’s doctor, call the office and ask for a printout of their weight over the past year.
In general, a dramatic weight loss is more than five pounds per month. If your loved one has lost more than 50 pounds in the last year, they could be losing muscle mass. They could also become weak due to a lack of vitamins, which could lead to falling or even fainting.
Ask your loved one’s doctor to run a full blood test that includes iron levels and cholesterol.
Sometimes older people don’t have the strength to stand up to cook. There are home delivery services, often covered by insurance, that will deliver ready-to-eat meals to your parents once per week.
If you can take your loved one shopping each week, you’ll be able to help them carry their bags into the home and make sure that they’re buying a variety of nutritious food.
A multivitamin that’s geared toward seniors is also a good investment.
Forgetting Major Life Details
While we’ve all walked into a room and forgotten what we went in there for, it’s not a cause for concern. Forgetting a word here and there or getting the date wrong are minor problems that we all have from time to time.
Here are some early warning signs of serious memory loss:
- forgetting the month or year
- losing important documents
- forgetting family members’ names
- not feeding the dog or cat
- forgetting how to start the car
If your family member exhibits any of these symptoms, it’s time to talk to a doctor. Check this out for more information about memory issues.
If your loved one has started to leave their home and wander outside at night, you may have to start considering managed care options. There is a chance that they could stay at home, but they may do better in a nursing home under constant supervision.
Poor Personal Hygiene
There are several reasons why seniors might neglect to bathe or change their clothing. They might have severe arthritis that makes it painful to stand in the shower, or they might have a fear of falling.
If you notice that your loved one’s hygiene isn’t what it used to be, it would be nice to sit with them and comb their hair. Ask them if they would like you to help them change clothing or take a bath.
People who have diabetes or who are on blood thinners should avoid cutting their own toenails. The good news is that podiatrists are trained to cut their patients’ nails and can even order special diabetic shoes.
If your loved one doesn’t have the strength to clean their home, you might want to consider hiring an in-home aide to help with the daily health routine. This service is also paid for by most insurance plans.
Suicidal Thoughts or Actions
Even if your loved one adheres to all of these top health tips, they may still struggle with depression. They may feel like they’re not wanted or needed, and they may miss their spouse or friends who have passed on.
Always take threats of suicide seriously. You may feel sad or overwhelmed that your loved one feels this way, but it’s important to talk about those feelings.
Some early warning signs of suicide include:
- suddenly changing a will
- talking about overdosing on medication
- donating personal property
- sharing suicidal feelings
- saying final goodbyes to family
Suicide among senior citizens is an unfortunate reality. Therapeutic intervention and medication can help, so it’s up to us to keep a close eye on our loved ones’ mental health.
Early Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
In addition to keeping our loved ones healthy and safe, we also have to make sure they’re not being abused by their caregivers.
Keep an eye on nurses and doctors who interact with your relatives. Are they being respectful? Are they doing the bare minimum or do they really care?
If your loved one lives in a nursing home, are they scared of some of the aides? Do they retreat into a shell when a particular staff member enters the room?
It’s a good idea to visit at different times to meet nurses and aides on every shift. Look for bruises regularly and take photographs if you find any injuries.
Now that you know about the early warning signs of poor health, take a look at the rest of our blogs. We have insider info on everything from interior design to travel!