As the baby boomer population begins to reach and surpass the age of 65, their adult children find themselves more concerned with the health of their aging parents than ever before. According to an article published by U.S. News, nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population is age 65 or older, and that proportion is predicted to increase to 18 percent by 2030. As the baby boomers continue on in their retirement years, many of them will require additional care, either in their homes or at a retirement community. While some adult children act as their parent’s caregivers, many of them are navigating changes in their parent’s health from afar.
While caregiving has its challenges, so does maintaining a long-distance relationship with an aging parent. It’s not uncommon for adult children to be surprised with their parent’s condition after going a long period of time in between visits. It’s especially common for an adult child to wonder why their parent never asked for help. While navigating senior health is different for every family, there are a few common themes to keep in mind.
It’s normal for older adults to experience signs of aging like stiff joints and or muscle weakness. However, after time these aging-related symptoms can make it difficult to complete daily tasks. While it might seem obvious to ask for help, there are a number of reasons your aging parents might not be telling you the whole truth about the state of their health:
They are experiencing cognitive changes
If your parent is developing symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they might not realize that their health and safety are being compromised. In addition, it’s not uncommon for adults experiencing cognitive changes to hide their symptoms from their loved ones, especially their children.
They are in denial
We are hard-wired to be able to rationalize any situation. Even if your parent is experiencing changes in their health, they might be in denial that there’s actually a problem. For example, if your parent is having more trouble driving than normal, it’s not uncommon for them to blame others around them.
They are afraid of losing their independence
You parent might be nervous about the consequences their declining health will have on the quality of their life. They might fear losing their homes, their cars, and their overall autonomy.
If you do notice a health decline in your aging parent, or are unsure if what you’re seeing is a normal sign of aging, here is a list of warning signs to look for published by the Mayo Clinic:
• Your aging parent might be experiencing memory loss if they ask the same questions repeatedly without remembering the answer. If you notice bills going unpaid, rotting food in the refrigerator, or if your parent is forgetting their weekly routine, like going to a workout class or regular appointment, they could be displaying signs of cognitive decline.
• Losing weight without trying to could be a sign that something isn’t right at home. Weight loss could be attributed to loss of dexterity resulting in the inability to cook for themselves, loss of appetite and energy, or difficulty getting to and from the grocery store.
• A lack of energy or depressed behavior is a sign that your parent might be having a problem. If you notice your parent has stopped talking about their friends or hobbies, you might consider asking them about it or approaching their healthcare provider with your concern.
• Losing balance is common in older adults. However, if you notice excessive bruising and scraping, it could indicate that your parent has been falling and should be examined for a balance or mobility problem.
• Your aging parent might be having trouble taking care of themselves if you notice a lack of hygiene, like bathing and brushing teeth. In addition, if you notice your parent is neglecting housework or doing laundry, these could be signs of cognitive decline or other health concerns.
Knowing how to react once you’ve noticed a decline in your parent’s health can be extremely challenging. Fortunately, the National Institute on Aging published a variety of steps you can take to ensure your parent’s wellbeing, no matter the distance.
Assess your aging parent’s needs
Most importantly, you should start with assessing your parent’s most immediate need. You might consider assessing their current situation by asking questions like, “where can my parent use the most support?” or “how can mom or dad use support while completing basic daily tasks?” Starting here can help guide your next steps.
Navigating the health concerns that can come with aging is scary for everyone involved, including your parent. It’s important to communicate in a way that will be well received. Take into account your parent’s cognitive situation and plan your conversation from there. Always remember to reassure your parent that the conversation is stemming from a place of love and concern.
Address any safety issues
When it comes to monitoring your parent’s health, their safety is definitely a priority. If your parent is still living alone, you might consider evaluating their home for fall-risks and ensure they have the proper tools, like safety bars in the restroom.
Explore your options
Once you’ve determined your parent’s needs, the next step is to explore all of your senior health options. Whether this means researching nearby assisted living or memory care communities or looking for in-home help, it’s important to do your research before making a decision.
At Maplewood Senior Living, we know you want the best for your aging parents. That’s why we offer care and support for every stage of life, ensuring your loved ones live a high-quality life throughout their retirement years. If you’re still unsure of your parents’ health needs, you might consider taking this quiz, or reach out to one of our staff members to learn more about our communities.
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