Elementary, My Dear Watson
At some time, you will find yourself wanting to keep abreast of changes in your elderly parents’ health and well-being. This will require a bit of subtle sleuthing and a lot of observation on your part. You might feel a bit like Sneaky Pete, but it’s for your folks’ good. The good news is that you will be watching for changes in their cognitive skills, their health, and the point where they may start to need help.
Keep your investigations subtle to avoid alarming or offending your parents. Observe their normal routine and keep lots of notes. Your goal is to document changes or problem tasks that may require extra help.
Documentation, Documentation, Documentation!
File your checklists and notes so that it’s easy for you to track down particular information. Some changes are subtle and may require observation over more than one visit to fully notice, and sometimes when a change begins is as important as that the change occurs. Of course, document what is still good and unchanged.
Basically, watch for any sign of problems with vision, physical health/activity, and cognitive, or thinking, skills.
Physical and Mental Health
Watch for sudden or rapid weight loss. Do they appear more, or less frail? Can they hold their own during normal conversation? Do they exhibit any odd new behaviors -- do they repeat themselves or get noticeably confused over simple things? Have they begun to squint or trip over things more often than usual?
Look for any decline in your parents’ driving skills. When they drive, do you feel safe? Do you see any new or unexplained damage to their vehicle? Any evidence or mention of a traffic ticket?
Sometimes seniors may withdraw from their normal social life either because they don’t feel as well as they used to, or because they are suffering some degree of lost vision or hearing and social settings exacerbate their discomfort. Or one parent may have suffered the loss of a spouse and they feel uncomfortable in social settings of mixed company.
Watch for a loss of interest in previously favored activities. Is it harder to persuade them to leave the house? Do they keep in touch with their usual friends? If they have been active in church, then are they still so?
Hearth and Home
Keep an eye out for changes that may indicate changes in ability rather than a sudden, soul-freeing bohemian outlook on life. Is the house maintained at the usual level of cleanliness and organization? Is mail piled up unopened? Are any unpaid or late notices languishing in the piles?
Can you see any home maintenance issues being left unattended like ceiling level light bulbs left unchanged, drippy faucets, broken appliances still unrepaired or dead forever and still sucking up space?
Check the fridge. Is it clean and stocked with foods that they usually eat? Are out-of-date foods still in the fridge or pantry? Do you see signs of burned cookware, floors, or counters?
Check for any new prescriptions or supplements. Are meds organized? Does their system facilitate taking meds properly? Check to see if expired meds are found among current ones.
Print This Checklist
Click this link do download the checklist and save it to your computer. Print it out and take it with you on your visits. Go through the list, check things off and make notes, then file it away for future reference.
For more tips on caring for your aging loved one or for help with care, call us at 530-622-9020 or click here to contact us.