There are many long-distance caregivers in the U.S.. According to the Caregivers in U.S. 2020 report, 11% of family caregivers match this description. But what is a long-distance caregiver? Well, they provide all the necessities of caregiving (emotional and physical support and more) to elders who live far away. However, due to limitations imposed by the distance, these caregivers rely on friends and family living nearby to check in on them. But, even with their assistance, it can still be difficult for a long-distance caregiver to get an accurate picture of the senior’s well-being.

If you are a long-term caregiver, then this blog will be especially helpful for you. The holiday season is one of the few times of year that you may be able to see your aging loved one in person. So, it’s important to know the major health red flags in seniors to watch out for.

At your next meeting or gathering, look out for these signs that your loved one may need extra help in their home.

 

Signs of Declining Health in Seniors

 

1.) Decreased Mobility or Balance

Observe your loved one’s gait and movement closely. An unwillingness to walk or signs of pain during movement might indicate muscle, joint, or neurological issues. Furthermore, if your loved one can’t stand steady, there is a risk of falling. In fact, the CDS estimates that around 3 million individuals are given emergency treatment every year for fall-related accidents such as hip fractures. So if you observe differences in your senior’s movement and coordination, be sure to set an appointment with their doctor. You can discuss with them how to keep your senior safe and mobile. Besides, if you don’t tackle mobility issues right away, your senior might develop a fear of falling that can make them stop engaging in their favorite activities.

 

2.) Losing Weight

One of the biggest telltale signs of ailing health is excessive weight loss. That’s because the underlying causes could be serious, such as depression, dementia, or cancer. These conditions can lead to less energy, fewer grocery store trips, and less home cooked nutritious meals. In addition, if your senior lives alone, they might think it unnecessary to put forth the effort of cooking healthy meals. Many other things can lower a senior’s appetite, including specific medicines and just the effect of getting older in general. As a person ages, the taste buds become duller and less effective.

 

3.) An Untidy and Messy Home

What are your senior’s surroundings like? For example, let’s say that your senior has always kept things very neat, clean, and tidy and never left any bills unpaid. In that case, should you find too much clutter and a stack of unpaid bills on the coffee table, those would be some big red flags. So be sure to pay them a visit and see if their home looks the way it usually did before.

Also, remember that some red flags are more subtle than others. For instance, scorched cookware could mean that they are leaving forgotten food in the oven or stove. An overfilled hamper might indicate that they are unwilling or unable to take care of the laundry. These indicators might mean it’s time to consider personal care options like senior living in Clinton Township.

 

4.) Behavior and Mood Changes

Watch out for any mood, routine, or behavior shifts in your loved one. After all, you cannot always interpret someone’s emotions over a phone call, even if you talk to them every day. So how do you know if your senior is keeping active and maintaining a healthy social life? First, it’s useful to have some idea of their daily schedule and their favorite hobbies. For example, do they still go to church every Sunday or get their haircut on Thursdays?

Also, keep an eye out for any signs of anxiety or depression. Signs might include:

  • withdrawing from social events
  • changing sleep schedule
  • losing interest in their usual hobbies
  • an unkempt home
  • a lack of personal hygiene

The last one can signify cognitive decline or other physical health issues such as dehydration. In fact, dehydration happens quite often to seniors in wintertime, and it can be quite a serious problem. 

A senior decorates a Christmas tree

 

How to Handle Age-Related Decline

The red flags discussed above are the biggest categories encompassing age-related decline in seniors. If you’re a long-distance caregiver, you’ll likely run into one or more of these problems eventually.

Of course, the holiday season is supposed to be a happy time, but don’t miss the chance to nip any problems you see in the bud. To do this, gather the important information while you’re in town. After all, you don’t want to be caught blindsided later on by an emergency event that you hadn’t foreseen.

 

Talk With Them and Their Doctor

During your visit, you’ll want to have a heart-to-heart discussion with your senior about their current circumstances as well as the concerns that each of you has. You should also consider setting an appointment with their primary care physician for a full health assessment. The results may turn out to be quite enlightening, and you’ll be able to take the appropriate next steps.

 

Consider Senior Care Options

It’s also important to remember that you aren’t alone in this. Have a sit down with your loved one and make a list of all the local people they interact with regularly. People on this list should include friends, neighbors, family members, and clergy who can be trusted to keep an eye on your senior when you aren’t around and who can be contacted if there’s an emergency. Be sure that you have all their addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses jotted down correctly. Also, share your own contact information with them.

If it turns out that your senior requires help with chores around the house or bathing/personal care, ask how they would feel about receiving a visit from a home aide twice a week. You can also discuss the various options of senior living in Clinton Township with them. Our website blog is a great resource for the different types of senior care options and what each one entails.