7 Warning Signs for Seniors Living at Home

Sometimes it’s hard to know just how concerned to be when a senior you know has an “incident” at home. After all, we all slip up from time to time. No point in overreacting. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to overlook something that suggests that they’re living in an unsafe situation.

The senior might be a parent, a relative, a neighbor, a friend. The last thing you want is to say or do anything that puts their independence at risk. But neither do you want something bad to happen to them that you could have prevented.

So, what warning signs should you be paying attention to?

Warning signs for seniors living at home

  1. Sudden or unexplained loss of weight. This could be a result of an underlying health problem, or it could be that they’re no longer eating properly. Either way, it’s not something that should be ignored.
  2. Not taking medications. There could be a number of reasons for this. It may be that they’ve been having adverse side effects and have decided on their own to stop taking their pills. If they have dementia, they may simply be forgetting to take them. The trouble is that failing to take medications – or mixing them up – can have serious consequences.
  3. Near disasters at home. Perhaps you see evidence that they’ve been having accidents in the kitchen or elsewhere around the home. They may act like they don’t know what you’re talking about or insist “it was nothing,” but next time they may not be so lucky.
  4. Unexplained bruises. This could be a sign they’ve fallen. If they live on their own, fall again and can’t get up, that’s a medical emergency, particularly if no one discovers them for a while.
  5. Going missing. Has your parent wandered off somewhere and appeared to get lost, even if just temporarily? This can happen in the early stages of dementia. The reason this is a serious concern is that half of people with dementia who go missing for longer than 24 hours end up seriously injured or dead. And it can happen again without warning.
  6. Social isolation. Its impact on mental health was brought into sharp focus by pandemic. In fact, research suggests that loneliness can actually shorten a person’s life expectancy. Have they lost contact with friends or family? Have they become isolated in their own home?
  7. Caregiver stress. The health needs of any family member who’s supporting them need to be considered as well. Maybe that someone is you. If that person reaches the breaking point and has a health crisis of their own, that can leave the senior without support, creating a dual crisis.

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If the senior is your parent or relative, what should you do?

  • Try to understand the underlying cause. It can be tempting to assume the reason for many of these problems is simple forgetfulness or – more seriously – dementia. But there could be a number of other possible reasons, some of which are treatable. For instance, a urinary tract infection or an interaction between drugs prescribed by different doctors could be the cause. Make sure that a physician – preferably a geriatrician or an internist or a family doctor who’s good at treating older patients with multiple conditions – does a thorough assessment to sort out what the underlying issue is.
  • Find community support. Check out programs and services that may help them continue to live safely at home. These could include Meals on Wheels, adult day programs, home care, social clubs, home monitoring services, or pharmacies that dispense pills in blister packs organized by time of day and day of the week. Some of these services can also take pressure off family caregivers.
  • Consider assisted living. Despite your best efforts, you may conclude that they would do better living somewhere meals are cooked for them, their medications are monitored, they have opportunities to make new friends, and help is available 24/7. In that case, a senior living community is likely the best option.

Bringing up the idea of assisted living with a senior you’re related to can be tricky, particularly if you’ve previously said that you would help them stay in their own home. If you’re not sure how you’re going to bring up the topic, we have some suggestions. Just drop us a line and we’ll give you advice that’s right for your situation.

Need help deciding when it’s time for senior living? Download our free Family Decision Toolkit. Ready to see a Sinceri community for yourself? Contact us to schedule a tour.

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