As we get older, we all start declining. We start feeling pain in places that used to feel fine, and our minds aren’t as sharp as they used to be. Decline is normal, but it’s important to know when your parents or grandparents have significantly declined either physically or mentally. They may reach a point when they need medical help or assitance with the activities of daily living. So how you do know when they have reached that point?
Below we’ll outline the top signs of “functional decline” in seniors. Functional decline is a technical term that includes physical decline and cognitive, or mental, decline. When you start to see these signs, it’s important to monitor them closely and provide the assistance they need. Ignoring these signs could be very detrimental to the health of your parents or grandparents.
Physical Signs of Functional Decline
Let’s start with the physical signs of functional decline. These signs are usually much more noticeable than the cognitive signs that we’ll discuss later. These physical signs include:
- Limited mobility
- Changes in posture or gait
- Frailty or lack of strength
- Poor coordination
- Lack or loss of balance
- Difficulty breathing
- Limited stamina
- Pain and soreness
- Signs of an injury
With regards to changes in posture or gait, you may notice that your parents or grandparents start shuffling their feet when they walk. That’s usually one of the first key signs in addition to poor posture when walking. Limited stamina is also another one that’s pretty easy to identify. They’ll start getting tired when completing simple tasks like walking to the kitchen or bathroom. When they get back, they’re completed winded and have to sit down to recover.
With regards to pain and soreness, you may hear them frequently complaining that “everything hurts.” Whether it’s arthritis, bursitis, or something else, they’re uncomfortable due to the pain they are experiencing. The “signs of an injury” usually refers to them having bruises from bumping into furniture or other minor collisions. As they get older, their bodes will show these minor bumps more than when they were younger.
Cognitive Signs of Functional Decline
Those physical signs of functional decline listed above are usually pretty easy to spot. But the cognitive signs of functional decline may be much less noticeable, especially if you’re not frequently visiting your parents or grandparents. When we use the term “cognitive decline,” we’re not talking about simple lapses like losing your keys. That happens to all of us. We’re talking about more significant memory losses that interfere with the activities of daily life. Below are some of the common signs of cognitive functional decline:
- Mixing up words
- Easily confused
- More aggressive
- More stressed
- Unexplainable behavior
- Poor self-care
- Poor housekeeping
- Change in financial habits
The mixing of words mentioned here is not to be confused with the symptoms of a stroke where a person simply loses the words to speak. Mixing up words refers to the misuse of words so that sentences are less coherent than they used to be. Increased aggression can usually be identified pretty easily if you’re visiting often. Circumstances that would previously be easy to handle become more difficult to handle. As a result, aggression is incited.
Increased anxiety is another frequent sign of mental decline. This can usually be solved with medication, but your doctor would need to make that decision. Outbursts may become more frequent with unexplained behavior in tough situations. Maybe a call with the phone or electric company becomes instantly contentious when it doesn’t have to be.
Poor self-care and poor housekeeping are glaring signs that you can easily spot when visiting. Maybe your parents used to keep their house spotless, and now things are becoming bit of a mess. Poor self-care is a glaring sign of oncoming dementia. Patients with early signs of dementia often neglect to bathe and their self-care declines as a result. This is usually apparent by their hair or increased body odor.
Finally, change in financial habits is a big one that should be closely monitored. Maybe your parents were really good about paying their bills as soon as they received them. But now the bills have started piling on the counter and late notices are appearing in the mailbox on a weekly basis. The last thing you want is for companies to start turning off services for your loved ones because they’re not able to pay their bills responsibly. It may be time for you to handle their finances and pay their bills for them.
How to Deal with Functional Decline?
So what do you do? How do you make sure you catch these signs before they become too significant and it’s too late. The simple answer is to monitor. Visit often and monitor closely. You don’t have to let them know why you’re monitoring, but just spend time with them and keep a close eye for any changes in physical condition or behavior.
Life is about relationships. It’s important to maintain those relationships as your parents or grandparents age. More importantly, make sure they’re not declining to the point where they need assistance with the activities of daily living. It might not get to the point where they need nursing home care, but they may need a home health assistant a few days a week to make sure their house stays clean.
Merely talking to them on the phone may not be enough. Some of those cognitive signs of functional decline will be tough to identify on a phone conversation. You need to visit them personally and converse with them to make sure they’re not showing any of these signs of mental decline. If you live a few hours away, see if you can get a neighbor or someone who lives closer to check on them to make sure they’re not displaying any of these signs. Either way, make the effort.
If you miss these signs, it’s probably because you’re not looking. Your parents or grandparents aren’t going to live forever. So let’s make sure we take care of them while they’re here and do our best to make sure they have what they need. Look for these clues or changes in behavior to show you that your parents or grandparents need help.
Decline happens gradually. It’s not overnight. Now you may think it’s overnight, but that’s because you haven’t been visiting or paying attention. But decline is gradual. Make a conscious effort to monitor your parents or grandparents, whoever it may be, to make sure that they have the care they need.
I keep preaching this — life is about relationships. So make sure that you have a relationship with your loved ones. Make sure that you are monitoring them and make sure that they have the care they need. Make sure that their medicines are being filled in a timely manner and that they’re taking their medicines per the recommendations of their doctors. Make sure that they’re getting the proper nutrition, diet, and exercise. It’s a big job I know. But realize that they took care of you when you were a baby. Now it’s your turn to help them, support them, and love on them.
Contact Us So We Can Help
I know this was a hard topic. Nobody wants to acknowledge physical or cognitive decline in their loved ones. It’s a hard topic to discuss. It’s a hard topic to accept. We hope we are helping you. Our job is to spur you into action and to give you some things to consider. If you have any questions regarding elder care for your parents or grandparents, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (229) 226-8183, email us at [email protected], or COMPLETE THIS FORM and we’ll contact you to schedule an appointment.
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