5 Ways To Determine Your Aging Loved Ones’ Living Status Taking Notice During Family Holiday Gatherings Can Prevent a Crisis Later On By Gina Saxton, RN
We live in a very mobile society where families don’t always live in same town or even state for that matter. Unlike “old days”, entire families throughout America don’t have opportunity to come together every week for a Saturday BBQ or Sunday dinner. Which is why upcoming holiday season is such a busy travel time - families still cherish togetherness and holiday season is often only time of year they can do so.
It is not uncommon for adult children of seniors to have some concerns about how their parents are doing. This year while you’re enjoying companionship of your family and catching up on lost time, make good use of your visit to review your aging parents’ and loved ones’ living status.
Many holiday traditions tempt your five senses. These five senses can also be used to evaluate status of elderly family members. Families often overlook a variety of warning signs such as forgetfulness, lack of house cleaning or a decrease in physical appearance by writing them off to “old age”. Below is a checklist using each of your five senses that lists key indicators or warning signs to help determine if your family members are in need of additional care or assistance:
SIGHT - Looking at senior’s appearance can be a sign that they are being limited either physically or mentally from completing otherwise normal daily tasks. Are they wearing clothing with food stains? Is their hair completely combed?
Do their teeth appear clean?
Does she continue to wear makeup?
How do their shoes look?
Is house orderly and clean?
SOUND – Listening to what and how seniors speak can tell you a lot about their current mental status. Don’t assume that “old age” is causing these problems; doing so can sometimes cause their mental state to decrease further. Do they call you by name?
Are they speaking normally?
Are they up on news?
Have they continued their outside activities?
Do they have future plans or goals?
If not, could they be depressed?
SMELL – Using your nose as an indicator can help you determine if your family member is bathing properly, participating in otherwise normal activities (cleaning their house), or whether or not they are eating regularly (if they have spoiled food in their kitchen).
Does their living environment possess any unpleasant odors?
Does refrigerator or cupboards smell?
Are plants thriving?
Is there an unusual amount of garbage, clutter, dust, or dirt?
TASTE – Tasting their food and sorting through their medications can help you determine if they are eating healthy or even worse, taking expired medicine.
Do they have fresh and stocked pantry items?
Look at expiration dates. How does food taste?
Does person appear to move around kitchen safely?
Are there many different prescriptions?
Do medications come from different doctors or pharmacies?
What about expiration dates on medications?
TOUCH – A simple hug could tell you that your family member is fragile, losing weight and putting him or herself in jeopardy of injury or even malnourishment from not eating properly.
Do they appear healthy?
Touch their skin - is it soft, supple and is color normal?
Do they have unusual tearing or bruising of skin?
Are they losing weight?
How are their sight, hearing and taste? If you sense a problem based on above indictors, you and other family members should waste no time in taking appropriate next steps. As difficult as process might be, keep reminding yourself that by being proactive, as a result of your observations, you will not only provide safety for your family member, but will also keep them happy and healthy for years to come.