How To Tell If Mom, Dad Are OK
Mom insists she and dad are fine when you're on the phone, but your brother's not so sure after stopping by. Whether it's a weekend visit with your aging parents or an extended trip with elderly relatives, keep an eye out for warning signs they need help.
* Food in the refrigerator is uneaten or outdated. A quick glance in the fridge can tell you a lot: Is there sufficient food in there? Is the food past its prime? Is there a lot of uneaten food because your parents don't have much of an appetite anymore?
* The house is cluttered or unkempt. An unkempt house may be a sign of forgetfulness or depression.
* Unexpected and unexplained weight loss. Losing weight can be a sign of poor eating habits, an indication that there is a health issue or depression.
* Bills are piling up. If the mail isn't opened or bills aren't paid, your parents could be experiencing forgetfulness or confusion. Look for a recently canceled check to make sure the payment was made properly and timely.
* Not keeping up with personal hygiene. If you suspect mom hasn't bathed in a week, she may be afraid of falling in the tub or shower. If your dad's wearing the same clothes all the time, it may be difficult for him to get to the laundry room.
* Missing appointments. If your mom hasn't been going to her hairdresser for standing appointments, or your father's missing his doctor appointments, it could be a sign of forgetfulness. Or maybe they need help with transportation.
* Medications are mixed up or not taken. This could be a sign of short-term memory loss, depression or confusion. "No matter the reason, this is a serious health risk," says Khaled Imam, M.D., chief of Geriatrics at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.
* They seem disconnected from reality or confused. When you call your mom, does she seem confused? Does she make sense? Is she talking about relevant topics?
* They get lost while driving to your house or the store. If your parents are still driving, it's important to evaluate their skills. Look for classes that can assess and enhance their driving abilities, such as the Mature Driver Workshops offered by Beaumont Hospital. The classes discuss the effects of aging on driving, compensation skills for diminished abilities, as well as provide an on-the-road evaluation. Call Beaumont's Physician Referral Service toll-free, 1-800-633-7377, for more information.
* Concerns from neighbors. Talk to your parents' neighbors - they may be your best resource.