As you or your family member gets older, things begin to change. At first, the changes are gradual, and you hardly notice them, until one day you find that something that was once easy is not so easy anymore. After a while, more and more things slowly add up and you find yourself wondering if living at home is still the right answer.
You’re not alone. Many people find themselves asking this same question every single day. Although there’s no easy answer, there are certain telltale signs you should be looking for to know when it’s time to think about the move into assisted living … before things truly begin to overwhelm you.
So, what should you be looking for?
Incidents, Medical Emergencies and Driving Events
Have you experienced issues with balance or walking? Or even worse, have there been incidents involving falls? Falls are serious, often leading to broken bones, head injuries and much more. Many go unreported. Six percent of those over the age of 65 will have a serious fall and the percentage doubles by the age of 75. Falls are more likely to occur as one’s gait becomes unsteady.
Medication mismanagement can lead to incidents in the home, including falls. Medications that are over-taken and under-taken cannot work effectively and can lead to serious problems, even death. If medications are not being taken properly, immediate intervention is required.
Fender benders, plus scratches and dents on the vehicle may also be a sign that problems exist. Accidents do happen, but as we get older, we don’t have the responses we once did. If you or your family member become lost when driving in areas that you have not had issues in before, this may make dementia suspect.
Changes in Weight or Appearance, Plus Body Odors
A quick hug can tell you much in this regard. Do you notice weight gain or loss? Do they feel more slight than they did the last time you hugged them? Do they have a noticeable body odor? Changes in weight or appearance, plus unpleasant body odors, often indicates problems performing ADLs (Activities of Daily Living).
Increases in weight can be the result of diminished activity, eating unhealthy foods such as sweets and fatty foods, health conditions such as diabetes or overeating, which can be attributed to dementia.
When meal preparation becomes difficult, someone may resort to eating whatever is available or even nothing at all. The loss of taste that is associated with the aging process can lead to a loss of interest in food. Not eating enough or not eating nutritionally complete meals over an extended period of time can lead to weakness and illness caused by poor nutrition.
Many medications should not be taken on an empty stomach; and when done so, lead to other digestive problems and further weight loss.
Changes in weight, especially weight loss, may indicate health issues that need to be addressed by the family doctor.
Although there are medical conditions which may cause body odor and certain medications which exude odors through the pores, poor hygiene tends to be the number one cause. Fear of slipping and falling may result in fewer baths and showers. Difficulty with laundry chores may cause people to wear clothes repeatedly. Both lead to increased odor.
Poor dental hygiene, dental appliances and dry mouth, which often accompanies aging, lead to bad breath.
As you age, you may experience some loss of smell; in fact, up to 75% of those over the age of 80 experience significant olfactory impairment, so the offensive odor may not even be noticeable to the offender.
Is there a change in your family member’s appearance? Do they groom themselves as they once did? Grooming, such as washing and combing hair or applying makeup, can become more difficult when joints are stiff, eyesight is diminished or hands are shaky. But some changes in appearance, such as mismatched clothes, clothes being inside out or worn improperly, makeup applied strangely and other manifestations could be a sign of something more serious such as dementia.
Someone who has always previously worn crisply pressed shirts that now wears T-shirts may do so because buttons have become difficult or they have lost the strength necessary to pull out the ironing board. Or if they have always been clean-shaven, but now wear unkept whiskers, may have problems handling a razor or have forgotten how to use it.
Home Safety and Security Concerns
Some forgetfulness is a normal part of the aging process, but it can lead to problems in the home. Burners left on and candles left burning may cause fires. Water left running can cause flooding. Gas appliances left on without a flame could cause asphyxiation or an explosion. Expired and spoiled food in the refrigerator and pantry could cause illness or death if consumed. Doors left open or unlocked could lead to intruders and robberies. Although some forgetfulness can be normal, it may signal dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and should be checked out by a doctor.
Lack of Socialization and Depression
In today’s society, family members don’t necessarily live in close proximity to each other. As you get older, friends may move to retirement communities or pass away. A spouse may pass away. All of these situations leave you feeling isolated and alone … and possibly even depressed. Add to this fact that as you age, you may not feel as comfortable as you once did driving. This can further your isolation. Loneliness and depression often lead to weight loss, loss of sleep, mood swings and other mental and physical symptoms.
Chronic or Worsening Health Conditions
People with chronic or progressive health conditions, such as COPD, congestive heart failure or dementia, often need increasing assistance. Some conditions may require constant attention … something that may be difficult to keep on top of at home.
Mail, Unpaid Bills and Household Chores
When you or a family member begins to have problems with responsibilities at home, you are again most likely dealing with ADLs. The problem can be caused by physical limitations, neurological conditions or mental issues, including depression. Some indications may include things such as piles of mail, including unopened bills, laying around. Utilities may be disconnected. Difficulty with housekeeping chores leads to filth, grime and unsanitary conditions. Inability to keep up with outdoor chores leads to weeds and overgrown plants, or plants dying from inadequate water. Indoor plants and pets may not be properly cared for.
Cedar Grove Assisted Living
Problems in one or more of the above areas may signal that it’s time to consider assisted living. Many of the topics discussed are easily addressed when someone is given assistance with their ADLs (Activities of Daily Living), one of the main concerns addressed in assisted living. Decreased, or lack of, social interaction is another big issue that assisted living communities address.
Ultimately, you want to do whatever is necessary and best to make sure you, a family member or friend are safe and that all needs are being met.
If you have decided that you want to consider the move to an assisted living community, we here at Cedar Grove want to extend a warm invitation for you to come join our family. Each person who enters our community finds a place that is safe, caring and full of life and love. Contact us today to schedule a tour, and then come see for yourself just how impressive our community really is.