Watching a loved one get older can be a difficult thing to endure. Seeing someone who once took care of you reaching a point where they need to be taken care of can be a sad and emotional time, both for you and for your loved one. However, aging is inevitable and as your loved one gets older, their safety and well-being are essential. Since your loved one may have trouble admitting they need help, you need to be aware of the signs of functional decline. Knowing what to watch for will help you determine if your loved one is capable of caring for themselves or if they need assistance. Three common areas of functional decline include:
1. Cognitive – Our ability to process information slows down as we age. Changes in your loved ones cognitive behavior, such as memory loss and personality changes, can be an indication of functional decline. Be on the lookout for a decrease in social skills, as well as a decrease in good judgment. Your loved one may begin to withdraw from social events that they once enjoyed or exhibit reckless behavior. All of these can indicate functional decline.
2. Physical – The physical changes that take place to the body as it ages are often easier to notice. Pay attention to your loved one’s ability to walk, including how well they balance on their own. Take note of their ability to perform everyday tasks, such as holding a glass, and watch for signs of tremors or muscle weakness. Aging can wreak havoc on a body and your loved one may need additional care if the aging process makes too many physical changes to their body.
3. Perception – Changes in your loved one’s perception include changes in their five major senses – hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, and smelling. As your loved one ages, the physical process can take a toll on vision and hearing. However, even medications can affect one’s ability to taste and smell. Pay attention to these changes and make the best decision you can for your loved one’s overall safety and well-being.
Remember, functional decline doesn’t happen over night. It’s a process that may occur over months or even years. Watch closely, and seek outside help when you have questions. You may be too close to the situation; seeking advice from an in-home care giver or even your loved one’s doctor can provide you with a better look at the situation.