7 Unexpected Signs Your Parents Are Going To Need A Lot Of Care As They Age
While it may not seem like something you need to worry about right now, it's still a good idea to keep an eye out for signs your parents might need more help as they get older. When you know what to look for, it can help you spot things like early signs and symptoms of age-related health issues, as well as habits that might make their lives more difficult. And that can lead to having a helpful conversation as a family.
Of course, it's never fun to talk about heavy topics like aging or illness, but discussing how it might impact your lives can make the whole situation easier. This is especially true if you're going to help support your parents. While they may not be open to talking about "getting older," you can point out areas of concern, and even create a plan of action — both for your sake and theirs.
Experts say there are ways to tell if your parents are showing signs of impending illness, including things like memory problems, joint pain, and other chronic disorders. But how they live their lives can play a role, too. Read on below for some things to watch out for, including what you can to do help.
1. They Aren't Keeping Up With Chores
If your parents are on the cusp of becoming older, and they happen to be getting a bit "lazy" with their household chores, consider it a potential red flag.
"When aging adults begin slowing down, it’s often difficult for them to keep up with home routine," Arthur Bretschneider, CEO and founder of Seniorly, tells Bustle. "Spills left uncleaned, bathroom mold, thick dust, and cobwebs can be signs your loved one isn’t able to take care of their home."
If you notice a pattern of messiness, go ahead and point it out. It may simply mean they're too busy, or have different priorities. But a messy house can point to deeper problems.
"Lots of clutter around the home becomes a tripping hazard," Bretschneider says, "and the inability to throw items away could be signs of physical or neurological problems." The sooner you can talk about this issue, and potentially get them help for any health problems, the easier the future will be.
2. They're Losing Touch With Friends
"As people age, their social circles often shrink," Bretschneider says. "Unfortunately, this can have some significant safety and health implications," including a decline in brain health, as well as the loss of a support group.
Socializing is super important to keep the mind sharp. So if it seems like your parents are isolating themselves, Bretschneider suggests asking them a few questions. Do they go on regular outings? Do they take part in their favorite hobbies? Are they still in contact with friends?
Encouraging them to get out and stay connected will not only keep them healthier, both mentally and physically, but will help them develop friendships that'll come in handy as they age.
3. Their Joints Hurt
Everyone experiences aches and pains as they get older, such as knee pain and other types of stiffness. But you may want to have a chat with your parents if they aren't treating this pain, or making an effort to manage their symptoms.
"The pain is tolerable now, however in another 10 or 20 years [it can] reach a point where they can no longer get to the bathroom or prepare food in the kitchen," life insurance expert Zack Taylor, tells Bustle. And that might mean they'll need more care.
Of course, it's completely up to your parents to decide how they'll live their lives, and whether or not they'd like to seek treatment — such as getting a knee replacement, or taking up exercise to ease their symptoms. But you can encourage them to take good care of their health.
It may help to gently remind them that taking great care of their joints now, can mean they'll have an easier time in the future.
4. They Tend To Shut Down Emotionally
Believe it or not, how open your parents react emotionally to various situations can also be a sign of what's to come. If, for example, "your parent is a high-conflict personality, [they] will encounter many difficulties facing various systems; housing, medical, supportive care," licensed psychotherapist Lisa Hutchison, LMHC, tells Bustle.
Unfortunately, it can be tough for those working in these fields to know how to handle someone who has emotional outbursts or other issues communicating, Hutchison says, and that can impact how well your parents are cared for as they age.
"To prepare, [you] can get [your] own counseling and join a support group," Hutchison says, not only to learn how to interact with your parents in a healthier way and take care of yourself, but also so you can educate anyone your parents will interact with.
You can also suggest your parent(s) go to therapy, too, so they can learn to be more open. Don't take it personally, though, if they don't want to or can't go. Not everyone's willing to see a therapist, and not everyone's able to change.
5. They Have Mild Forgetfulness
Another health symptom that can start off slow and get worse over time is forgetfulness, which you may notice happening more often for your parents as they age.
"Examples of common memory complaints that may occasionally occur during normal aging include misplacing objects around the house, forgetting the names of less familiar acquaintances, forgetting your intent upon entering a room, or having some difficulty remembering lesser details of what you have read or of prior conversations," Verna R. Porter, MD, neurologist and director of the Alzheimer's Disease Program at Providence Saint John's Health Center, tells Bustle.
These moments are quite normal. But if they're ongoing, or getting worse, it might be a sign your parents will need more care as they age. "When memory loss becomes so pervasive that it begins to disrupt [...] work, hobbies, social activities, and family relationships," Dr. Porter says, "this may suggest the warning signs of an evolving dementia syndrome or a condition that mimics dementia."
It can help to express your concern to your parents, and suggest they see a doctor. They might be interested in making a few lifestyle changes, as a way of staying sharp as they get older.
6. They Have A Chronic Disease
If your parents have chronic diseases, it may help to encourage them to seek treatment now, while they're younger, instead of waiting for it to get even worse.
"Chronic diseases are certainly ones to watch for," Kaylynn Evans, executive director of Vineyard Bluffton, an assisted living community, tells Bustle. "When working in long-term care, we see individuals with diabetes whose wounds don’t heal well, long-time smokers with COPD, and heart and vascular issues for those with poor diets and a lack of exercise."
It can be tough to watch your parent struggle with a health issue, and even more so if they don't want to get help. There are, however, things you can do to help.
"Adult children who care about their parents can continue to encourage them to have healthy lifestyle habits," Bluffton says. "This isn’t always easy when their parents have been participating in some habits for most of their lives." But you can start by telling them how much it would mean for them to be healthy.
If you come at it from a place of care and concern, instead of demanding they overhaul their life, it may be the inspiration they need. Keep in mind, though, that you can't force someone to change.
7. They Have Rigid Thinking
It can be tough to deal with change, and even more so if you have rigid or fixed ways of thinking. If this describes your parents, consider how it may impact them as they get older.
"People who exhibit rigid thought patterns, such as all-or-nothing thinking, are more susceptible to developing mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression," Hutchison says. "This can appear as resistance or stubbornness."
They might, for example, not be open to making healthy lifestyle changes, moving to a new house, or listening to well-meaning advice. And that can cause life to be more difficult than it needs to be.
While therapy can be a big help, your parents may be who they are, and all you can do is take good care of yourself as they age. It's also good to offer advice, make suggestions, and communicate as a family. You can't make them listen, but if they do, they may not require as much care as they age.