The 6 Signs of Decline

How to decide what's natural old age and what may be a cause for concern.

women touching senior's hand

Is it inevitable that aging must bring disease, debilitation and dementia? Jack Lalanne, the exercise guru, continued his two-hour daily workouts into his nineties. Clint Eastwood, at the age of eighty, continues to produce, direct, and star in major motion pictures.

Sure, our parents are aging. But while chronic illness and increased frailty take their toll on many, some are maintaining their independence, vitality, and mental acuity well into their eighties. Yet we still worry when these seemingly healthy parents forget their phone number or lose their car keys. So how can we differentiate the normative aspects of aging from disease?

My father was in his early seventies when he began showing signs of dementia. Though keenly intelligent, he had always been absent-minded -- misplacing things, mixing up the names of his children, and growing agitated when events did not go as planned.

So it was no cause for alarm when he began to seem increasingly forgetful and disorganized: the emotionally wrenching search-and-rescue missions for his lost glasses were just business as usual. It was not until my father became disoriented on a short bike ride to the local grocer and was forced to call my mother to pick him up that we recognized something significant had changed. It was then that we made the decision to have my father undergo a medical evaluation for dementia.

For those of us caring for aging parents, we must balance concern for our parent's welfare with respect for their autonomy and independence. In addition, we may live a distance from our loved ones and view changes through a magnifying lens.

How do you know if what you're seeing is a true decline, versus a natural state of old age? These 6 warning signs will help you determine whether your parent is facing a medical problem or simply following the usual path of aging:

  1. Physical Changes
    Are there gait changes, extreme weight fluctuations, or a decline in personal hygiene?

  2. Household Changes
    Is there no food, old food or expired food in the fridge? Are there scratches or dents on the car?

  3. Mood Changes
    Does your parent show signs of anxiety or depression? Depression is NOT a normal part of aging -- and it can be treated!

  4. Forgetfulness -- out of the ordinary
    Like my Dad, losing glasses was expected. A repeated pattern of forgetting pertinent events, however, may be cause for concern.

  5. Misuse of Prescribed Medications
    Are there expired prescriptions? Can your parent remember what medication he or she is taking and when to take it?

  6. Mishandling Finances
    Are there unpaid bills, problems keeping track of expenses, signs of carelessness with money?

Once you recognize, like my family and I did, that the changes you are observing may be signs of dementia, a chronic illness, or increased frailty and dependence; it is time to communicate your concerns in a compassionate and clear manner. You can then take proactive steps to plan for the type of care that will give your parents the independence and well-being they deserve, while maintaining their safety and your peace of mind.

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Comments (10)
Photo of Leathia B.
Leathia B.
Being a Professional Care Provider, is the most rewarding, and fulfilling job that I have ever had. I know I make a difference in someones life when they look forward to me coming back again.


Leathia B.
Posted: January 03, 2013 at 10:29 AM
Roberta B.
I am a senior looking for homecare, i have 30 years of experience and have work for the va hospital taking care of veterens in my home for nine years.i have many letters of reference and a cna and would love to care for your love ones.
Posted: November 16, 2012 at 9:22 AM
Bertha N.
I am a caregiver, I am not certified with a piece of paper,because a piece of paper does not make a person. I have cared for a lot of children as well as older people because I love giving back some of the love that God has given me. and the only complaint that I ever get is that I spoil them all.
Bertha N.
Posted: August 10, 2012 at 2:40 PM
Liza P.
I am a filipina caregiver certified seeking live in or live out job to care for adult or elderly client with more than 10 yrs experience as a care provider at Palm Beach County.Provide a thorough highly skilled and careful assistance in assisting clients with activities of daily living with compassionate nature and loving disposition. Provide service for home care and I am responsible, reliable, able to build rapport establish lasting professional relationships
Posted: August 08, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Linda P.
I am a senior,looking after sensiors;because of this unique position,I can tell you first hand that it is both enjoyable and streesful-but well worth the time and prayer that goes into the job.The constant,effectual prayers of the caregiver availeth much,enabling the each to have a peaceful,respectful,enjouable life.
Linda P.
Posted: December 31, 2011 at 2:17 PM
Dee N.
We are the Seniors !!!!!!!!and Seniors to be.

I do hope all are "Just nice"
Seniors are are most important family member....

Kindest
Dee
Posted: December 18, 2011 at 12:11 AM
Photo of Carola D.
Carola D.
Taking care of two elderly and frail loved ones, has made me realized I want to do this for others in need of help, love to work with Seniors and help them keep their dignity
Posted: August 24, 2011 at 9:55 AM
Photo of Carolyn K.
Carolyn K.
i need to know how someone would write a reciew? carolyn kearney
Posted: August 15, 2011 at 11:47 AM
Virginia A.
i am take care of my mother she is 97 years old she need almost everything done for her ,house cleaning meals help cleaning herself i am doing for the pass 6 years i lost my full time job in december 2010 i need to get a job to help me to survive in this cris i am 57 years old i am having a hard time to find a job

virginia alves
Posted: August 10, 2011 at 10:39 PM
Photo of Nancy B.
Nancy B.
i took care of my grandmother she needed almost everything done for her, shopping,light housecleaning,some meals, help with cleaning herself. i did this for 5 years. while working down the street at a hardware shop. i am 60 and retired and need a part time job to help us out.
Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:16 PM
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