Aging Well Partners
- Mar 02
- 4 min
What To Look For When Visiting An Aging Loved One
Whether you see an aging loved one on a daily/weekly basis, or your aging loved ones live far enough way to require a road trip or airline flight, there are four main areas you want to pay special attention to when visiting next.
Your loved one’s physical environment can tell you a lot about what’s going on in their lives.
- How does home look when you get there?
- What does it smell like?
- Does it appear clean and tidy?
- Are there tripping hazards present (throw rugs, electrical cords, etc.)? My mother keeps her home clean and tidy, yet she is a huge fan of throw rugs. She has small dogs and states the rugs are more for the dogs than they are for her. Either way, throw rugs are one of the primary causes of falls in the home.
- How does the exterior of the home? Is the place falling into disrepair? Our homes are typically one of our biggest investments so keeping the home in good repair – inside and out – benefits not only the person living there but the initial investment put into the home (which has likely skyrocketed in today’s housing market).
- Is there adequate lighting if your loved one were to go outside after dark?
- Does your loved one still possess the things you are used to seeing when you have visited previously? A family member of my client started noticing that every time they visited, more and more pieces of art were missing. Where once there was a mantle full of artwork, the number of pieces were slowly dwindling with no explanation or recollection of where they had gone or who they may have been given to.
Having conversations with your aging loved ones can help to uncover what may be going on for them mentally and emotionally.
- Has your loved one forgotten your spouse’s name or the names of your children? I had a client tell me that he called his mother and instead of asking how each grandchild was doing, she asked him “how is your family?”. This occurred as odd to him at the time but once he started putting the pieces together, he finally realized that his mother was in the early stages of dementia.
- Are they forgetting to take their medication(s) as prescribed? Having a medication box can be a good way to tell if someone is taking their medication as directed.
- Are they showered and wearing clean clothes or is the bathroom – particularly the tub or shower area– being used as extra storage? While in a client’s home, I asked to use the bathroom. I found she was using the tub/shower enclosure for storing paper towels, toilet paper and garbage bags full of clothing. There was no way she had been using the tub or shower. I now understood her lack of personal hygiene and found the right kind of help for her.
- Have they given up arts, crafts, or hobbies they used to love to do? It could be a matter or physicality, or it could be more of a mental issue…or a combination. Especially during the pandemic, the focus on mental health and how damaging social isolation can be to one’s mental and physical health cannot be overlooked nor taken lightly.
While visiting your aging loved ones, keep a close eye on how they are managing physically.
Are they having increased difficulty sitting down or standing up?
Are there stairs in the home they are afraid to navigate? My great aunt lived in an older home and at a certain point in her aging process, she stopped going downstairs. This would not have been an issue but for the fact that her washer and dryer were in the basement. This meant she was no longer doing her own laundry, which explained why her bed sheets were so dirty.
Are they still using that old step stool to reach items being kept in high places? Perhaps it’s time to find alternate options for shelving and storage.
Is personal hygiene becoming an issue? This will especially be noticeable if your aging loved one is becoming incontinent of bladder and/or bowel. Skin breakdown, due to prolonged contact with urine or feces, can become a very serious and life-threatening matter if unnoticed or left unattended.
Does your loved one have unexplained bruising on their body? Often the person can neither remember how nor where they got the bruising; or maybe it’s because they have been falling and are afraid to share this with you.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, up to half of all adults 65 years and older are at risk for malnutrition and it is the “leading cause of morbidity and mortality, especially among older adults”. Malnutrition in our aging population has various causes, many of which involve the aging person’s physical abilities and mental capacity.
- Is your loved one physically able to plan, shop for and cook nutritious meals each day?
- Is your loved one mentally able to plan, shop for and cook nutritious meals each day? Often, a simple look through the refrigerator or glance at what’s in the garbage can alert you to how well your loved one is eating – or not. Pre-packaged and highly processed foods are often eaten by aging adults because of the convenience factor. However, the downside to these pre-packaged and “convenient” foods are numerous and often dangerous (high levels of sodium and trans fats, contain high fructose corn syrup and/or high amounts of sugar, levels, and additives like aspartame, monosodium glutamate, and nitrates/nitrites).
With a bit of observation and some meaningful conversation with your loved one, you can identify areas where they may have a deficit and arrange to have them addressed. Perhaps your loved one need some physical therapy to increase their physical abilities – an order from their Primary Care Physician and some visits from Home Health could be the answer. Maybe the person’s house needs regular cleaning, and they could benefit from a grocery run and meal prep a couple times a week – a home care agency may be just the ticket. With the peace of mind that your loved ones are aging safely.
Aging Well Partners empower aging adults in finding vetted and trusted resources and services that meet their specific needs.
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