For those of us who love someone elderly, it is important to be aware of red flags that signal potentially serious health issues. These signs are especially important if we can only visit the people we care about infrequently. Although phone calls can provide some information, many elderly people are reluctant to share their health concerns — even with their own children. It is also common for them to be unaware of potentially serious issues that are affecting them.
Here are 5 signs to watch out for:
1. Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
Unexplained weight loss is often a red flag for a serious underlying illness, in particular cancer. Even when the weight loss is not caused by serious illness, it is often a sign of depression, or a reflection of the individual's growing inability to care for themselves.
Unexplained weight gain is also a red flag, commonly reflecting depression, and a lack of interest in taking care of oneself. Snack foods are easier to eat than cooking a proper meal. And when people become depressed, their concern for proper nutrition is often one of the first things to go.
2. An unkempt appearance
When visiting an elderly person, one of the first things we should be aware of is their appearance. Are they clean? Are their clothes clean? Is their hair properly combed? Do their nails need to be trimmed? If any of these sorts of questions are answered in the negative, it’s a red flag.
Individuals who were formerly well groomed but no longer are, may be suffering from depression or an early stage of dementia. Another possible explanation for these changes is that a physical ailment may make taking care of themselves painful and difficult.
As mentioned, many elderly people are reluctant to mention their various ailments, and consequently their loved ones may be unaware of the situation. It is important to remember, when questioning an older person, that we not injure their pride. Our questions, therefore, must be asked in a respectful and tactful manner. But they must be asked.
3. Memory Loss
A certain degree of memory loss is, unfortunately, a common part of the aging process. However, when people begin forgetting important pieces of information, or are unable to remember important events in their life, we should be aware of the possibility of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. As with most diseases, the earlier a proper diagnosis is confirmed, the better the prognosis.
All signs of memory loss, for example, getting lost in a familiar place or an inability to find the right words to express an idea, should raise a red flag. In some cases, it is best to note the behavior and keep a close watch on it, rather than immediately rushing to the doctor and thereby alarming the person you are trying to protect. However, when you see a clear or accelerated decline, the time for a doctor visit has arrived.
4. Social isolation
Elderly people, especially those who have lost their spouse, can become isolated from those around them. Their loneliness can be extremely painful, and social isolation can lead to depression.
People with dementia often fear social situations, since they may be put in positions where their inability to remember facts and events will be apparent to those around them. However, being involved with other people is fundamental to staying psychologically healthy. If we are aware that the social habits of the elderly person we care about have changed, we should find out the reason for this change. Continual answers such as, "I'm just not in the mood," raise a red flag.
5. Decreased mobility
Falling is the main way for an elderly person to lose their independence. It is important to note if the senior we care about is having more trouble moving around their home. Do they seem to lose their balance more frequently? Do they need to lean on tables or against the wall in order to provide support as they move from one place to another? If the answers to any of these questions is yes, then steps need to be taken to ensure their safety.
For those who are walking independently, it might be time for a cane. For those using a cane, it might be time for a walker. And for those using a walker, it might be time for a wheelchair. It is not uncommon to encounter resistance to such suggestions, but it is extremely important for an older person to do what they can to avoid falling.
One important way to facilitate safe mobility is to ensure that the environment they live in is suited to their current physical abilities. For example, steps may no longer be possible, or there might be too many objects in the environment to make it possible to walk without the risk of tripping over something.
Clearly, regular medical care is important for an older person. But our concern for our aging parent or relative, along with our knowledge of their usual behaviors and our attention to the details mentioned above, can be equally important. We will often notice something long before a doctor would have noticed it. In this way we can help our loved one enjoy a higher quality of life, over a longer period of time.
If enough red flags have been raised, your loved one may no longer be safe at home. If that becomes the case, it is crucial to find a place where they will thrive, while being well-cared for, such as one of the Regency care centers. At Regency, we offer the very best of care in a patient-centered environment. This means always listening to our residents and patients and respecting their capabilities, while helping them to achieve maximum functionality and independence. And always maintaining the highest professional and quality standards in our staff and our facilities.
We offer a comprehensive and stimulating array of programs is designed to appeal to a variety of tastes, interests and levels of ability, seven days a week. With an emphasis on empowering the residents, our recreational programs encourage patients and residents to fulfill their potential and remain engaged and involved. Individually tailored activities and programs include live entertainment, lectures, trips and events that encourage socialization and participation.
Regency care centers also offer a full continuum of care, including exceptional short-term rehabilitation, sub-acute care, long-term nursing, a range of specialty programs and complex clinical services, hospice care and temporary respite care. Our compassionate, personalized approach has established our long-standing and unparalleled reputation for excellence.
Our 25 years of excellent care have led to us being awarded a Best Nursing Homes award by US News & World Today, a 5-Star rating by USA Today, and an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, among many other awards.
Contact us by clicking here to see which of our three facilities will best meet your needs or the needs of your loved one.