Aging parents: Five warning signs of health problems
If your parents are getting older, you may want to make sure they're taking care of themselves and staying healthy. But it's difficult to monitor the health of your aging parents from miles away. Use your next visit with your parents to ask about their health and find out if there's anything you can do to help them maintain their independence.
1. Have your aging parents lost weight? Many people think that being thin is healthy, but losing weight without trying is a sign that something's wrong. Weight loss could indicate a significant health problem in your aging parents, or difficulty in preparing food. Schedule a visit with your parent's doctor to rule out serious physical conditions.
2. Are your aging parents safe in their home? Take a look at your parent's home. Are they having trouble keeping things up as they once did. Is the yard overgrown? Are there dirty dishes in the sink? Are the lights working and the heat on? Think in terms of safety. Can they climb the stairs and get around safely in the house? Have they mentioned recent falls? Are there changes in their vision or hearing? Point out safety issues to your parents and work with them to correct.
3. Are they taking care of themselves? Pay attention to their personal hygiene. Are they bathing, brushing their teeth, wearing clean clothes? Have their usual standards about appearance and dress seem to be changing? Failure to keep up with daily routines could be a result of health issues.
4. How are your aging parents' spirits? Do they appear blue and depressed? Withdrawn? Anxious? Are they keeping up with friends? Do they have a variety of activities in their lives that they are looking forward to? If they're normally churchgoers or volunteers, are they continuing those activities? Talk to them about their moods and encourage them to see their doctor if they're depressed.
5. Are your aging parents having trouble getting around? If your parents have any health conditions that make it difficult for them to get around, they may have difficulty caring for themselves. Do they have trouble walking? Issues with balance? Are they avoiding walking anywhere because of joint pain? If they are unsteady on their feet, they may be at risk of falling.
What to do if you have concerns about your aging parents. Talk with your parents if you have any concerns about their health and safety. Knowing that you're concerned about their health may be all the motivation your parents need to see their doctor. Some parents may need a little more encouragement, so let them know that you care about them and that you're worried. Consider including other people who care about your parents in the conversation, such as other relatives, close friends or clergy.
Together you and your parents can come up with solutions to problems around the home. Perhaps your parents could use assistive devices to help them reach items off shelves or to help them stay steady on their feet.
In talking with your parents, you might decide that it's time for them to get some help around the house. Home care service workers can help with small tasks, such as errands and cleaning. Or it may be time to consider a long term care facility, such as an assisted living center.
If your parents aren't willing to listen to your concerns or if they dismiss your claims, you can take other measures. Call your parents' doctor for guidance. Some signs of medical problems aren't easily spotted in a doctor's office, and your concerns may help the doctor understand what to look for in your parents on their next visit. Your parents' doctor won't discuss private information with you unless your parents have given the doctor permission to discuss their care with you. However, their doctor or health care provider may be glad to hear your insights.