Pay attention to these behaviors over the holidays
At last, the holiday season is here. After nearly two years of caution, social distancing, and isolation due to the pandemic, many of us will finally have an opportunity for long-awaited in-person visits with parents, grandparents, and other elderly relatives.
During the celebrations, family meals and gift exchanges, you might notice some subtle signs that your loved ones’ ability to continue living alone safely has declined.
As you spend time with your senior relatives, please pay attention to:
Confusion and forgetfulness
We certainly all have our moments of confusion and stress, especially around the busy holidays. Small, isolated incidents may not be a reason for concern, but repeated questions– or forgetting how to use common household devices like a remote control or telephone– may indicate a potential memory disorder.
Coordination issues or unexplained bruises
Falls are not uncommon among older adults because our muscles begin to weaken as we age. However, falls are the most frequent cause of accidental death among seniors—and even short, ground-level falls can be fatal for our elderly loved ones. Unexplained bruises can be a sign of declining vision, a balance issue, or a tendency to fall.
Excess clutter or hoarding
Not everyone is a “clean freak.” However, hoarding is a common early indicator of dementia and impaired judgement. While being untidy isn’t always concerning behavior, it can lead to unsanitary living conditions, fire risk, and an increased risk of falling. Hoarding signs can also include stacks of unpaid bills or unopened mail, which can have serious financial implications. If a previously neat and organized relative is suddenly living in a cluttered environment, you will want to find out why.
Unintentional weight loss can be an indicator of deeper issues for our frail elders. Watch for indicators like loose belts, baggy clothing, or a thinner appearance. Anxiety disorders and depression are often accompanied by weight loss. Losing more than 5% of your body weight in less than six months may indicate a decline in activities of daily living (like cooking or feeding oneself). It can also be a symptom of gastrointestinal disease, cancer, or other chronic illness.
A lack of bathing or other hygiene issues can be an indicator of more complex problems. Seniors who are afraid of falling or lack mobility may choose not to bathe for safety reasons. Depression and dementia can also cause older adults to neglect their grooming and hygiene.
Wearing inappropriate or soiled clothing
While wearing the same outfit for several days in a row, or donning a sundress in the coldest months of the year could be a charming eccentricity, it may also be an indicator of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia. Seniors who refuse to change their clothes could be doing so because they are losing the ability to keep track of time. They may also be seeking security or comfort or are exhibiting a need for control. An older adult who physically struggles with dressing themselves may also avoid changing their clothing regularly.
Personality or behavior changes
Changes in mood and personality are a common symptom of people with Alzheimer’s Disease. As the neurons in their brains deteriorate, a person’s behavior might change depending on the area of the brain that is affected. An outgoing, sociable person may suddenly become shy and inhibited, and seniors who are sensing changes in their cognitive ability may intentionally withdraw out of fear of being “discovered.” Significant personality changes could signal a need for a doctor’s visit.
Unusual sleep patterns
Our hormones, health conditions, and lifestyle all change as we age—and each of these variables have an impact on our sleep patterns. However, significant issues with sleep can be an indication of a cognitive or memory disorder like Alzheimer’s Disease. Damage to the part of the brain that acts as our internal clock could cause us to sleep during the day and be alert overnight. Sundowning, or increased agitation in the late afternoon and early evening, can also indicate dementia or other cognitive disorder.
As you spend time with your loved ones this holiday season, please pay attention to these indicators as well as other unusual activities. If you see one or more of these behaviors, it is worth having a conversation with your loved one to find out why these issues are happening. There may be a simple explanation. However, multiple instances of unusual behavior may indicate that it’s time to consider in-home care or even a new living arrangement.
Oasis Senior Advisors understands that having these conversations with our elder loved ones isn’t an easy task. Our experienced and knowledgeable local Certified Senior Advisors are prepared to assist you with personal, no-cost consultations to help you identify your needs and answer your questions. As part of our free service, our compassionate advisors can connect you with local senior resources, as well as arrange tours of independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities to help you and your loved ones make the right decisions. Oasis Senior Advisors is your trusted partner for everything you need to keep your older family members safe and secure.