Beth never suspected that her elderly mother was deteriorating mentally. She spoke with Barbara every day and nothing was amiss. Beth's brother lived with their mom and had never noticed anything either. Then she and her brother spoke with a doctor after Barbara's second stroke.
"The doctor told us that she had signs of vascular dementia. He asked if either of us had seen any of the signs, and I told him no, that I speak with Mother every day, and everything seemed fine. He said that she must have been good at hiding it."
"That's when it hit me. I had been having the same conversation with Mother every day for years."
Beth's story is not uncommon.
It's easy to miss or even ignore warning signs of a parent's mental deterioration, especially if you live far away. But if you visited them over the holidays, take time to reflect on their situation. Did you notice any of the following red flags that signify your parents might no longer be able to live by themselves?
1. Inattention to Personal Hygiene
Your mother, who used put on her make-up before she'd get her coffee, hasn't washed her hair in a while. Your dad once told you that only ruffians wear tee shirts outside the bedroom, but he wore the same tank top every day of your visit. You might make excuses for the little things (everyone relaxes around family, or they just want to dress comfortably during the holidays), but ignoring basic personal hygiene is a major red flag. Bad breath might signify a lack of oral hygiene. If you noticed body odor, your loved one might have neglected basic washing either because of forgetfulness, or a fear of falling in the bathtub.
2. Unpaid Bills
Did you see piles of unopened mail? Maybe you saw a few envelopes marked "FINAL NOTICE," but felt too awkward to investigate further. Your mom taught you how to balance a checkbook, after all. The woman who lectured you about the importance of good credit would never neglect her own finances. Sadly, that might be the case. Even if your parents were, say, cavalier about their credit score, unpaid or unopened bills are a major red flag.
3. Unkempt House
Most of us remember our aging loved ones keeping clean houses in their prime. As they age, however, a messy house may point to more problems than dusty shelves and un-vacuumed floors. The inability to keep up with daily chores can signal that they are being overwhelmed with everyday life and they require assistance.
4. Food Issues
They seem to be hoarding spoiled food. No one likes to throw away food, but you found milk that expired in August. You visited for a week, but had to go to the store yourself because their cupboards were bare. Your dad, the gourmet chef, is surviving on cold canned beans. You might have noticed scorch marks on pans, which signifies a major fire hazard for your parents and their neighbors.
No one wants to think of his or her parents as frail or incapable. You might even argue that you don't want to "invade their privacy." However, as Beth learned, sometimes the elderly can hide their situations out of pride or ignorance. They cared for you, and they stepped in when necessary. Now it's your turn to notice when they need your help.
For more information on the warning signs, visit AgingCare.com or call us today at: 386-673-5000 to learn how we can help your loved ones with the care they need.