It’s almost become more common place than what many of us would like to admit. When is it time to make a move for mom or dad. In many conversations with the Director’s of Resident Services in our communities, it is often mentioned how people come to assisted living communities wishing they had made the decision to look sooner.
Making the decision to move to an assisted living community for someone who has lived in their own home for the past 40 years, is no doubt a tough decision to make. We become creatures of habit. None was more true than it was for my own family. My grandparents lived in the same house that they raised both of their children in for years. It wasn’t their first home, but it wouldn’t be their last either. My grandfather probably had the hardest time making the decision to move. He had become comfortable in his home knew where everything was. At the time, he was still driving and was doing fine. The small problems we started to note were at home; the little things around the home like a point on the wall that had become his safety railing as he rounded the corner in to the living room; the steep stairs that led to the basement. Everything started to add up that getting around a two story home was becoming more and more difficult.
Over the course of many get togethers, we began to have the conversation of whether or not it was time to make the move. From our side [the family side], we treaded lightly, not really knowing what kind of response we were going to get. The conversation actually went fairly well. When my grandfather decided to make the move, it went quickly. Tours were set up among several communities as we made sure that this was going to be their choice. After touring several communities, they quickly made plans for the move.
A few weeks after the move, we overheard my grandfather telling people that this was the move they should have made years ago. They settled right in and made several new friends. A lot has happened in those years, and all very positive. We’ve been very grateful to the team for taking such great care of them.
Just as we began noticing slight changes, there are signs that families may notice that may signal changes in their family members.
Here, 10 tell-tale signs that trouble may be brewing, according to a recent Chicago Tribune story:
1. Hygiene. Poor grooming or unmet basic self-care needs, such as bathing, are often an early heads up that someone is in declining health. “My mom used to be very neat and clean, but she started to wear the same clothes over and over again, and she couldn’t see the food stains,” says Kaplan.
2. Nutrition. Unexplained weight loss is a sign of poor nutrition, as Shapiro found out. Her mother simply stopped cooking. Look in the refrigerator: Little or spoiled food could indicate that a senior isn’t cooking meals or eating well.
3. Housework. A home that’s dirtier or more cluttered than it used to be — with piles of dirty laundry or dishes — can indicate something is awry. Hiring a house cleaner can take care of such concerns, but an untidy or poorly maintained house may also indicate physical decline or depression, as it did in Shapiro’s mother’s case.
4. Health. Maybe there’s just a general sense that something isn’t quite right, such as persistent fatigue or lack of energy. Follow your instincts and make a doctor’s appointment for the person in your care — and go along with her, if you can.
5. Medications. Lots of unused pills in the cupboard, or confusion about how, why, or when meds should be taken are danger signs. Managing meds can take some initial set up (such as a pill box) but the need for reminders on a daily basis could mean bigger issues.
6. Bruises. Signs of injury, such as bruises, could be evidence of falls. Seniors who’ve fallen in the past are at greater risk for repeat falls, which can lead to serious injuries. “Mom used to say, ‘I don’t know how I got such a big bruise.’ We quickly figured out she was falling,” says Kaplan. Some seniors try to keep falls secret.
7. Orientation. Confusion about time of day was an early clue for Silver that something was up. “My mom kept asking why the caregiver wasn’t there, and I kept explaining it was nighttime and she came in the morning.” Difficulty navigating surroundings away from home can also be a telltale sign that someone needs help. On an outing to the shops or a restaurant, observe if she can walk alone and how she adjusts to new situations. Often the elderly function fine at home but challenges are more apparent in less familiar settings. The same holds true for driving.
8. Community. Neighbors or those who work for the person in your care may notice changes in her behavior. Maybe she goes out less than she used to — or not at all. Perhaps papers and mail are stacking up outside. Check in with them. “My mom’s gardener told me she kept calling him in to help her find her check book,” says Kaplan. “He really noticed a marked change in her ability to cope.”
9. Finances. Bills routinely left unopened or unpaid equal bad news. Setting up some simple systems may address this issue, but such disarray could also be a sign of cognitive decline, as Kaplan found. “Mom obsessed about her financial situation, and she seemed confused about everyday money matters.”
10. Predators. Older seniors, especially those who live alone, are more vulnerable to con artists who befriend the elderly and try to scam them out of their money. Such situations could indicate that a senior’s judgment is failing. Unfortunately, as Silver discovered, a predator could be a neighbor, relative, or caregiver. “My mother loaned a caregiver $3,500 that she never got back,” she says.
If you begin to notice changes in your family member that may have you wondering, don’t be afraid to bring up the conversation. If you are reluctant, or the person won’t listen to your concerns, don’t give up. You can always bring in reinforcements. Talk to the family doctor, geriatrician, geriatric case manager, or mental health of social work professionals.