One of my clients, Jamie, always traveled to her hometown in the Midwest for Thanksgiving to see her mom. She would have loved to visit more often, but as is the case with many of us, there isn’t time between work and raising kids, not to mention the expense of traveling. Her mom, a retired schoolteacher had always been a social butterfly, witty, outgoing and very involved in her church and women’s groups. On her last visit, Jamie had noticed some changes in her mom, but chalked it up to the fact that she was 82 and it was normal for her to begin slowing down. On her visit home last Thanksgiving, she was alarmed by how much her mom had changed. This once vibrant woman, was no longer participating in activities or going to church. Always well groomed, her hair had grown out and her clothes hung on her making it obvious that she had lost weight. Jamie was devastated to see the decline in her mom, and wondered how she had missed the signs.
Jamie is not alone. It’s hard to know what signs to look for – how do you know what’s normal aging and what’s not? When visiting aging family members over the holidays, be aware of any changes in these five areas.
- Physical Change – weight loss, loss of mobility, tripping or shuffling their feet. Do you notice mom or dad’s clothes are hanging on them? Has dad always been physically active, but is now struggling with going up and down the stairs? Does mom seem unsteady on her feet? Does she hold on to furniture as she walks?
- Personal Hygiene/Messy House – not bathing regularly, wearing the same clothes for days, house filled with clutter/newspapers/magazines, expired or moldy food in the fridge, burned pots and pans. If your mom once kept an immaculate home, and now the house is a mess that is a red flag. Maybe she physically can no longer keep up with the house and grocery shopping.
- Memory – confusion, repeating themselves, forgetting names of family members, unpaid or overpaid bills, inability to follow a conversation, getting lost when driving. One of my clients shared that during a visit home, her mother cooked breakfast for the family. She heated and then served ham to everyone, but she had never actually turned the stove on, and ended up serving cold ham. She never realized her error.
- Mood/Agitated – changes in behavior could be dementia or depression. For example, your normally jovial and outgoing dad is withdrawn and quiet. Or your sweet, easy going mom is snapping at everyone.
- Damage to the car – unexplained dents and dings to the car. Maybe there have been changes to their vision, or a physical condition has worsened. Giving up the car is one of the toughest decision for any senior, but it may be time to have that conversation.
Jamie saw many of these red flags, and knew she had to find help for her mother. When she started digging in and asking questions, she learned that her mom had developed macular degeneration and had lost a dear friend in a short period of time. Due to her change in vision, driving was becoming difficult for her, and she didn’t want to ask anyone for help. She was also depressed over the loss of her friend. Depression is very common in seniors, and can cause them to become isolated and withdrawn.
By expressing her concern in a nonconfrontational manner, Jamie learned that her mom wanted to relocate to a senior community near her, but didn’t know how to start the conversation. She was concerned that she would be a burden. Today Jamie’s mom is thriving in an Independent Living community …all of her meals and transportation are provided, and they even have an on-site beauty salon, where she has her hair styled every week! She has had the opportunity to meet others and engage in all types of activities. Jamie is delighted to see her mom once again living her life to the fullest.
If you notice any of these red flags, please contact Lori Williams – Senior Services. We educate and guide families through the maze of senior housing and resources. No need to try to figure this out on your own. Let us save you time and stress.
*Call Lori at 214-783-1222 to schedule your no-cost consultation.
This is always a free service for seniors and their families.
Lori Williams is the owner of Lori Williams – Senior Services, LLC. She is an expert in senior housing, and has served seniors in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for 12+ years.
Voted Best of Denton County 2019.