Five Areas to Look Out for when Caring for Elderly Parents

The Importance of Noticing the Little Things

As your parents age, they’ll inevitably start to need a bit of extra support and care.

For many of our parents the last thing they want is to be a burden or for us to worry, so they can be reluctant to ask for help. Some are too proud or embarrassed to admit they are struggling to do something on their own, while others may not realise or recognise they need help.

That’s where your vigilance comes in. By noticing changes in behaviour or spotting when something isn’t quite right, it’ll mean little issues don’t turn into bigger problems. Addressing concerns early together, will help you implement timely support whether from yourself or by external carers.

Things to Look Out For:

  • Wearing the Same Clothes

    If your parent is wearing the same clothes each time you visit, it could be a sign that they aren’t taking care of themselves as much as they should be. Could they be struggling to get dressed and undressed? Are they finding it difficult keeping on top of their washing and ironing? Maybe they’ve lost interest in their appearance, have low self-esteem, or have lost a sense of purpose?

    This may be particularly common at the moment with COVID-19 restrictions meaning day centres are closed and there is less socialising with others - their loss of interest in their appearance could be an indication of loneliness or struggling with their mental wellbeing.

    Starting to get a little forgetful could also be a reason behind wearing the same thing all the time, of course there is also the possibility that your parent is wearing the same thing for ease or out of habit but it’s just something to keep an eye on. We certainly don’t want to jump to conclusions every time mum wears that same blouse (it could just be her favourite!).

  • Personal Hygiene

    Noticing a decline in hygiene levels, or lack of desire to keep on top of day to day living could highlight the need for support. Personal hygiene could include washing, brushing/styling hair, shaving and grooming. If you are concerned your parent isn’t maintaining their usual level of personal hygiene, by checking and noticing small changes like whether their towels are regularly changed, toenails clipped or they haven’t shaved in a long time, will help ensure you aren’t missing signs of them needing help.

    Gentle prompts and encouragement, or even direct help with personal care, may help to keep on top of any hygiene struggles.

    It may be that your parent just needs a few aids around the house, maybe a walk-in bath for ease of getting in and out, or some other more personal care. Supporting your parent/s with their personal care is a big step, and a boundary that many people don’t feel comfortable with, so this is where a home care provider can help.

  • Maintaining the Home

    Is your parent managing to keep their home clean and tidy? Keeping on top of the housework and day to day running of a home can become exhausting and overwhelming. Your parent might be struggling to push a hoover or no longer have the ability to stand for long enough to wipe down surfaces. Or could it be just a lack of interest?

    If a once spotless kitchen now shows signs of neglect, it might be time to consider home aids, give them a hand around the house occasionally, or if funds allow, get a cleaner in to help on a regular basis so it takes the pressure off them (and you!).

    Perhaps they feel there is no point in cleaning and tidying because they don’t have many visitors or anyone to make an effort for anymore. This could be a sign of depression or general loneliness, and far deeper than just the matter of a clean kitchen: look for ways to show them they are loved and needed by family and friends, and keep monitoring their mood in case further support is needed from GPS and other services. See below for further supports and consider Speak to an Expert Service for one to one advice.

  • Talk & Question

    It’s important to talk to your parent/s about day to day issues, life and routines. By asking questions and listening carefully to what they’re telling you – and critically what they may not be telling you – will help you to know whether they’re doing ok or if there’s something you could help with or arrange support for.

  • ‘Little White Lies’

    Particularly with an elderly parent living alone, it’s not uncommon for them to say they’ve done something when they haven’t. Usually with couples, one will ‘tell’ on the other if they use a ‘little white lie’, but single elderly parents often feel they want to confirm to their children and friends that they are coping fine by themselves and don’t need help.

By making you think they are happy and busy, they hope you’ll assume they are still fine and coping with life.  There may be no need to worry or challenge them, but if there are other signals too, it’s worth being aware of. 

For further information or support:

For further information, contact our partners at Autumna www.autumna.co.uk on their advice line to discuss care homes, home care and live-in care.

External Resources

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