If you’re visiting your mom or dad this holiday, you might notice certain changes.  Yes, they are getting older (you are, too!), but use the opportunity to look out for those things that signal a change in their well-being and ability to live independently.

Clutter

One of the events that most commonly precipitates a downward spiral of hospital stays, doctors visits and declining health is a fall.  Does mom have a lot of clutter around?  Are there various throw rugs and small carpets?  All of these items become fall hazards as we age.  Read more about home safety here.

Perishable Foods

 Take a look in the refrigerator.  Are there a lot of out-of-date perishables?  Check the dates of things like milk, eggs, lunchmeat, yogurt, etc.  You don’t want mom getting ill because she ate something old.  At the same time, see if there is an adequate supply of fresh, nutritious food.  For so many of us, the burden of food prep can outweigh the benefits and pleasure of a healthy diet.  This worsens as we age.

Medication

Check mom’s meds to see if they are being taken properly. It is easy for someone to get confused, especially when there are several.  Compare the amount left in the vial with the prescription date.  Does it seem like she is taking it on schedule

Hygiene and Cleanliness

Is mom wearing clean clothes?  Does dad have BO?  Have clothes piled up in the hamper?  Let’s face it, personal maintenance take energy.  If someone lives alone, it’s so easy to put on the same shirt day after day.  Initially, it just might be gross, but at some point, poor hygiene leads to real health issues.

The Check’s in the Mail

Is mail piling up?  Are bills getting paid and filed?  Failure to pay bills can lead to huge late fees and, sometimes, cutting off of service.

Check Her Feet

It may seem surprising, but the health and appearance of someone’s feet may offer warning signs to overall health issues. Are mom‘s feet cold even when she has them covered? Does she have ingrown toenails? Are her toes blue or black? If anything does not seem right, you may want to schedule an appointment with her doctor.

Change in Behavior

A change in behavior or obvious decline in capability might be the most telling sign that you need to pay more attention to mom’s well-being.  Is it harder for her to get around?  Does she move from room to room using the walls and furniture for support?  Does she no longer take pleasure in favorite things?

Checking these things is the easy part!  Doing something about it is the hard part.

Your mom or dad will likely get mad if you show up and start moving things around like you own the place.  They don’t need you telling them what to do.  They’ve gotten by fine for many years without your help, thank you very much.

At least try to have the conversation about how their needs are changing and how it might be time to think about getting help, or even moving to a senior-oriented community.  It’s a process, but if you don’t help them, who will?  Good luck!

Caring Corner

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About the Author:

Lorenzo Mejia and his wife, Mary Lynn Ryerson, are the owners of Acorn, a caregiver registry located in Chapel Hill.

They founded Acorn based on their experiences caring for his mom, who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease.  In 2013, he became a Qualified Dementia Care Specialist.  In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Foundation named him the Dementia Care Professional of the Year in the United States.

Lorenzo is the founder of Dementia Friendly Orange County an effort to make local businesses more accommodating to people with dementia.

Lorenzo speaks often on dementia and the challenges associated with caring for loved ones.  He has been interviewed by ABC News and National Public Radio.  He is an advisor to Orange County’s OC-CARES Dementia Capable Community Project.