Normal aging is part of life. No matter who it is, the inevitability of our bodies and minds getting older is natural. As a caregiver or a person who has older parents, thinking about this can be overwhelming in terms of planning for the future. No one wants to see their family and friends grow older, especially if their health begins to decline, yet we also understand it’s our responsibility to watch out for the older adults in our lives.
We often think about signs of aging as physical symptoms, however, there are other signs associated with aging that may raise some red flags. Declining cognitive health and mental health also contribute to problems as people get older. We see it everyday.
So, as time goes by, how do we recognize these age-related changes and possible risk factors in our loved ones?
Signs of concern for an aging loved one
Being around loved ones for extended periods of time makes it easier to notice changes. Be observant during these moments and take mental note of your loved ones behavior and physical appearance. If there are significant changes with any of the following, it may be time to consult with a health care provider.
Sudden weight loss is never a good sign. As people age, their bones naturally become more fragile. When accompanied by weight loss, it can affect things like body temperature and muscle mass. The question to ask is: why has this weight loss occurred? Maybe your loved one doesn’t have enough energy to cook or even eat, a clear sign of distress that needs to be addressed right away.
Another contributing factor to weight loss may be medication. Has there been a recent change in their medication? Certain medications may alter how food tastes, which may cause an individual to eat less or not eat at all. At StoneBridge, we offer medication management. We know how important it is to monitor medication side effects. Paying attention to the details, including weight changes, is normal practice in the care and treatment of our residents.. It is no different than how we would care for our loved ones at home.
Weight loss could also be a sign of an underlying medical condition that needs attention. If you’re not sure, ask a medical provider for guidance as to the cause of this sudden change.
At StoneBridge, we offer nutritious food as part of a healthy diet for each of our senior residents within our community. We’d be happy to talk with you about weight concerns and offer our support for any questions you may have.
Physical stability is key for aging adults. If you notice there is an increasing lack of balance after being with your loved one, it could be cause for concern. Do they have problems getting up from a seated position? Do they have to hold on to something as they walk across the room? Subtle changes in body position can mean something is off. Also, bruising of any kind could indicate a fall or an overall lack of stability.
When balance is compromised, there is a higher risk of falling and serious injury. With older adults, a fall could mean broken or fractured bones and other medical problems. Mobility problems could also be a sign of joint complications or muscle issues and need to be taken seriously.
Decreased mobility increases the chance of developing further health complications and impacts quality of life. Once people stop moving, their health begins to decline drastically. Becoming inactive affects nerve cells, circulation and blood flow, muscle mass, the digestive system and so much more.
Watching out for signs of decline in balance and mobility could help your loved one get the therapy and support needed to continue living their best life.
Mental health is so important regardless of age, so recognizing any type of cognitive or emotional change in your loved one is key. Have you noticed they’ve recently withdrawn from social interaction? This is a telltale sign that they are struggling emotionally. Emotional withdrawal could also be triggered by holidays, a change in seasons or even the weather. Loss of interest in any hobbies or normal household chores could also be a sign of distress.
A lack of motivation could be a serious sign of a variety of underlying issues, including depression or dementia. This also includes a lack of personal hygiene. If a loved one has stopped taking care of themselves, there could be a problem with mental health.
Another contributing factor to emotional health and well-being is sleep. Make sure to talk to your loved one about getting the proper amount of sleep. Lack of sleep can exacerbate a whole host of health issues in older adults.
There are a few different contributing factors to mild memory loss as we age. Natural aging is one of them. Our brain and nervous system are also aging, so we aren’t quite as sharp. Some medications and their side effects may also contribute to brain fog or mild memory loss.
Other types of memory issues are more serious for older adults.
Is there a family history of any type of mental illness or mental health problem? This is a good place to start if you think a loved one is showing signs of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.
If they start having difficulty with everyday tasks like driving or shopping, there’s a chance they are experiencing the onset of a mental health condition.
Specific signs a loved one may be developing severe memory loss:
- They get lost even in places that are familiar to them
- They ask the same questions again and again
- They have a difficult time following instructions
- They become confused about time, people, and places
If your parent or loved one is living independently in their home, be sure to pay attention to their home’s appearance, including specific details about food, laundry and cleanliness. Older adults will often have a difficult time keeping up with everyday tasks and chores.
What important questions can I ask to determine if my loved one’s health is declining due to age?
- Is their home neat or does it seem run down?
- Are their bills being paid?
- Is mail piled up?
- Is there spoiled food in the fridge or food sitting out?
- Is their car in good shape or are there unexplained dents or scratches?
- If they’re on medication, have they been taking it? Is it expired?
If you notice any issues with these particular items, it may be time to have a conversation with your parent or loved one about a senior living community. As people age, these conversations are often hard but necessary. If you don’t know how to talk to your parent about moving to an assisted living community, this guide will help.
Is blood pressure affected by age?
Yes. Our bodies age and along with it so do our heart and blood vessels. Not only do our bones and joints begin to stiffen up, but so do our blood vessels. They’re not nearly as elastic, so naturally they can’t pump blood as easily as they once did. This causes blood pressure to increase and it’s the reason why so many older adults take high blood pressure medicines.
This isn’t to say that hypertension, or high blood pressure, can’t be prevented or treated. Understanding the risks and factors that cause hypertension will help with prevention and diagnosis. There are quite a few factors that can cause high blood pressure. Many are due to personal choices such as diet, smoking and drinking alcohol. These risk factors affect how well your heart will pump blood to your body and directly impacts your blood pressure and overall health.
What are the next steps for helping an aging parent?
There are many underlying health conditions and medical conditions that could contribute to the health decline of an older person. If there are legitimate concerns of a known illness, please speak with a primary care physician or reach out to a health professional in your area for guidance. They can help treat health problems.
Gathering information is important so you can be better informed on what they need moving forward. What you need to know before selecting a senior living community for your parent or loved one is important. Doing your research will pay off.
At StoneBridge, we offer many services and amenities for seniors as well as a variety of living situations to help accommodate the needs of your loved one.
StoneBridge is here for you and your family
Our team of health professionals are both compassionate and understand what it takes to take care of your family. If you have any questions about the comprehensive services and amenities we offer, we would love to talk with you more.
As a leader in the senior living community, StoneBridge is known for creating a caring and family atmosphere for all of our residents. Take a virtual tour and contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on our available care options.