The Missed Medication: Missed doses and medication mistakes (overdosing and running out of pills before the next prescription can be refilled) can lead to very serious medical complications. Older people often take multiple prescriptions for various health conditions, which can be overwhelming without assistance and reminders.
The Mysterious Dent: Look for evidence of parking or speeding tickets, fender-benders, dents and scratches on the senior’s car as signs that driving skills may be deteriorating. Decreased ability to see, poor sense of direction, inability to merge into traffic, driving way under the speed limit and slow reaction time is a recipe for disaster with senior driving.
The Missed Doctor’s Appointment: While this can be a symptom of increased forgetfulness, it is often simply a result of not having transportation and not knowing how to access transportation options on their own.
The Piling Mail: Seniors can feel overwhelmed by the simple task of reaching the mail box, opening and responding to daily mail, as well as balancing a checkbook, particularly if eye sight is deteriorating or if this was once the responsibility of a now-deceased spouse. This can result in overdue bills, bounced checks, utilities being turned off due to lack of payment and other creditor issues.
The Lost Walker: Items and valuables dear to your aging parent become lost. Anyone who has memory problems and is able to walk is at risk for wandering. Be on the lookout for the warning signs of dementia such as returns from regular walks later than usual, difficulty locating familiar places (such as the bathroom or bedroom), or pacing or restless movement.
The Piles of Laundry: Changes in housekeeping may occur simply because it is too difficult or tiring. This is especially troubling if a parent used to keep the house neat and orderly or if a now-deceased spouse was responsible for these duties. From dirty laundry to dirty dishes, these everyday tasks become too much to handle on their own.
The Empty Refrigerator: Seniors who suddenly find themselves alone, who have become lonely over time or are easily overwhelmed by cooking, tend not to eat properly. Their refrigerator may be nearly empty, or packed with spoiled food. An aging person may eat enough calories to get by, but may suffer nutritionally, including increasing cholesterol and lowering vitamin intake. Studies have found that poor diet can increase the risk of dementia in seniors and weaken the immune system.
The Torn Shower Curtain: Damage to bathroom fixtures such as shower curtains, loose towel bars or window sills could indicate your parent is using these items as support, a potential danger if they lose their balance.
The Unshaven Face: Changes in appearance are the most obvious sign that some assistance is needed. These signs can range from unkempt hair and body odor, to unshaven faces and wearing clothing that is unclean, unchanged for days or inappropriate for the weather. These changes may occur because doing the laundry or getting in an out of the tub has become too physically challenging. Many who live alone also fear slipping and falling in a shower or bathtub with no one to help him or her get up.
The Unfinished Garden: Your loved one acts as if they are performing a hobby or chore (such as moving clay pots and soil in the garden), but nothing is accomplished. Asking to go home while already home, trying to fulfill obligations (like going to work), or getting lost in a changed environment could be a warning sign for dementia.