Aging can bring about many changes – from the way we view ourselves and other people to the perspectives we gain after decades of life lessons. Aging can also bring unexpected situations and circumstances that change the people we love, especially our parents. As our parents grow older, they become more prone to accidents, illness, and the more severe symptoms of aging such as memory loss. While there are common and normal side effects of aging adults, there are signs you shouldn’t ignore when visiting aging parents.
1. They don’t want you to come inside their home
When meeting with or picking up an aging parent from their home, how often do you go inside to visit before leaving? When you pick up your parent from their home, are they already standing outside their front door or in the driveway waiting for you? Do they consistently tell you to wait in the car while they finish getting ready? If you haven’t been inside your parent’s home in a while and they exhibit signs that make it seem like they’re avoiding having you come inside, there might be cause for concern.
If you do have the opportunity to peek inside their home and it looks as though they aren’t cleaning up after themselves or they exhibit behaviors indicating they cannot take care of themselves, it may be time to seek advice about caregiving or assisted living.
2. They stop engaging in or participating in activities
If your parent is an avid church-goer, choir-participant, or gets together with a group of friends often and abruptly or suddenly stops participating in the activities, this is something adult children shouldn’t ignore. Although missing a meeting or choosing not to go altogether doesn’t sound alarming for many adults, the reasoning behind the missed event can be more telling than what lies on the surface.
Asking a question about the said activity can spark conversation and may give more insight into the situation, but if it seems like a parent has no recollection of not attending the activities and seems disinterested or cannot stay focused on the topic, seek advice from an experienced medical professional or senior care consultant.
3. They repeat themselves or repeat the same story over and over
As we age, reveling in the stories of the older days that make us laugh over-and-over again and remember the “good days” is something that everyone who ages experiences. You’ll often hear these stories about the good days from older relatives, especially parents, and you’ll be hard-pressed to get them to stop telling a story they particularly like or want to boast about to anyone who wants to hear it. However, these repeated stories over years time can cause no harm, unless they’re telling them like a cassette player on repeat.
This might be especially noticeable during the holiday season when families gather together. An aging parent who seems to repeat their story to the same person – even if they had never heard it before – in the same sitting, this might be cause for concern. Memory loss can affect any aging adult, but severe memory loss, as well as Alzheimer’s or Dementia, can include forgetting that you’ve told the same story moments after you’ve already told it.
4. They have drastic personality changes or severe mood swings
While anyone can experience mood swings from time to time and at any age, drastic personality changes and severe mood swings shouldn’t be ignored in aging adults. These signs may be easier to spot in your own parents because you’ll likely know by now how they act or react to situations. Slight changes in personality or mood could occur in anyone as they age, such as exhibiting behavior like irritability, agitation, or even depression. Other indicators of personality changes include swearing, insensitivity, impulsiveness, paranoia and social withdrawal.
Rapid and unexpected mood swings in parents can be alarming to adult children when a parent moves from calm to tears to anger with no reasoning behind it. Drastic personality changes can mean that a docile, gentle parent becomes bossy or controlling. Severe personality or mood changes like this could be an indicative sign of frontotemporal dementias. If this occurs, speaking to a doctor or care manager as soon as possible is recommended.
5. They have confusion with simple tasks or time and dates
An Alzheimer’s sign that should be hard to miss among aging parents is confusion with simple tasks, such as following a recipe or time and dates. When an elder misjudges how long it can take to travel somewhere or cannot remember for example, how to get to the post office from their home, despite the fact that they’ve made the trip hundreds, if not thousands, of times in the past. These lapses in judgment and confusion about the time or the day should never be ignored because although these situations won’t evoke a feeling of worry in some, they can rapidly decline. If left unchecked, confusion regarding small tasks can quickly transform into confusion about people and surroundings.
6. They continuously misplace or lose things
As adults, we often become overwhelmed with family and work and misplace small items from time to time. Whether it’s our car keys or cell phone, we can usually easily and quickly retrace our steps and find the item within a short amount of time. Aging parents may often lose or misplace things, too, but if the occurrence of misplacing items happens more frequently than normal, pay attention. One of the most important factors in misplacing or losing an item is whether your aging parent is able to retrace their steps to find the missing item. Do they remember when they had the item last or where it’s usually kept?
Another sign that shouldn’t be ignored is if you’re finding common items (like car keys, cell phones, notepads, etc.) in strange places – like the microwave, the refrigerator, the oven, etc. If there is no reasonable explanation for finding items in strange places, this can be an indicator of Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia.
7. They exhibit poor decision making
When you look back on your teenage and young adult years, you might think about some of those decisions you made and think that it probably wasn’t a good idea. The sign of poor decision making in older adults is not particularly similar to those bad mistakes you made when you were younger. Poor decision making in adults is a side effect and particularly, a consequence, of cognitive decline among those with Alzheimer’s, Dementia, or general cognitive impairment.
Examples of poor decision making in aging parents and elder adults include the inability to manage a budget, not paying bills, neglecting personal care and hygiene as well as wearing the same clothes over and over without washing them. Poor decision making may not be as easy to recognize among aging parents if they do not live with you or don’t see you every day. Whether severe or not, inability to make sound decisions is a large enough reason to potentially seek caregiving or assisted living options.
When we age, everything from our mind to our body changes with time. Sometimes, we see a change in our parents that becomes hard to accept. Other times, the signs of aging we see in our parents becomes hard to ignore. Even if some of these signs seem harmless when they occur so minimally, but things like poor decision making and memory loss can be harmful to elders. They also make them more susceptible to health problems and also scams targeting the elderly. If an aging parent is exhibiting any of these signs, it’s best to see or speak with a professional who can help. If you need to seek help from a professional about an aging family member, please contact us.