Being a long-distance caregiver for an aging parent can be incredibly challenging. Adult children want what’s best for their elderly loved ones and do everything they can to provide emotional, financial, and social assistance, but there are some things that can only be dealt with in person.

With the holidays coming up, families across California are preparing to share meals, gifts, and memories during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Long-distance caregivers should look at their visits home not just as an opportunity to enjoy time spent together as a family but also as a chance to check in. Keep an eye out for the following signs of memory loss, cognitive decline, and behavioral issues that could indicate it’s time to look into memory care options.

Dirty, Cluttered, or Falling Apart Homes

While there’s no need to worry about a little dust in the corners or a few light bulbs burned out in the halls, it is important to take stock of how well elderly adults are maintaining their home environments. Keep an eye out for serious issues that could pose a danger to their health such as garbage piling up indoors, spoiled food in the fridge, piles of dirty laundry, and stacks of junk taking up space in places where they could pose a danger to residents.

Don’t forget that not all people start out at the same baseline when it comes to standards for home cleanliness and organization. If an older adult used to be conscientious to the extreme about keeping the house clean and it’s suddenly a mess, that’s a bigger sign of trouble than someone who has always been a bit disorganized continuing in that trend, at least as long as the mess doesn’t pose any dangers. When things get out of hand and it becomes clear that aging parents can no longer perform basic housework, it may be time to start talking about senior living arrangements.

Cognitive Changes

People of all ages forget names, places, and dates or misplace crucial items like car keys periodically as a matter of course. If an elderly parent starts forgetting who his or her children are or seems confused about how to use common household objects, those could be signs of something more serious going on. More specifically, they’re some of the early warning signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative neurological condition that will require ongoing care as it gets worse.

Encourage the affected family member to schedule an appointment with a neurologist or a geriatrician. If possible, stick around for long enough to make sure he or she makes it to the appointment and find out what the specialist has to say. If there are signs of a parent’s memory loss and cognitive function getting worse over time, think about looking into elder care communities that also have memory units to accommodate dementia patients.

Behavioral Changes

Dementia doesn’t just affect people’s memories and abilities to reason. It can also change their personalities. If a once sweet and doting mother is becoming uncharacteristically mean or snapping at the grandkids in ways that are new and concerning, don’t ignore that warning sign. Mood and behavioral changes can be signs of either dementia or depression, but either way, it’s time to seek help.

Older adults who are struggling with depression may benefit from moving to an assisted living community where they can interact with peers and get more one-on-one attention from caregivers. Those whose mood and behavioral changes indicate worsening dementia are better off receiving care in a dedicated memory unit where the staff is trained to provide a greater level of assistance and supervision. As dementia progresses, it can place unsupervised seniors at risk of hurting themselves, and continuing to live alone can elevate that risk even more.

Encourage Parents to Make the Move

If adult children of aging parents notice warning signs that their loved ones’ memories or cognitive functions are starting to rapidly decline, they should take action now instead of waiting for things to get worse. The best thing to do is to put together some information about what it’s like to live at Summerfield of Redlands and use those talking points to convince seniors that it’s time to make a change. 

At Summerfield of Redlands, we offer everything your aging parents need to maintain their comfort and continue to live meaningful lives even in the face of dementia and other serious cognitive impairments. Visit our website to learn more or call (909) 793-9500 to schedule a tour.