As we approach middle age, our parents approach old age, and we are faced with the possibility that our aging parents will run into problems that comes with age. I lost both my parents years back. I come from Asia, where many countries have low life expectancy. I guess we were lucky that our Dad lived up to his 80s and our mom to her 70s. My husband’s family, like many European families, is family of mainly elderly people. European life expectancies are among the highest in the world. My husband’s parents in their 70s are both well and his grandma is approaching her 90th year with optimism. Uncles and aunts in their 70s are all healthy and active.
In Asia, it is tradition that the young take care of the elderly. In Europe, the elderly are more independent and tend to live alone. Initially, it was very difficult for me to accept this but I have learned to live with it.
However, I still believ we shouldn’t take for granted that our aging parents and grandparents can manage on their own all the time. Old age is something that the elderly people themselves may find difficult to accept. After all, old age can mean loss of independence and mobility. It is up to us to be vigilant about our elders’ health and well-being. The health experts at Mayo Clinic gives us some tips on what to watch out for as we watch over our aging parents:
Weight loss. When the elderly loses weight, this could mean a lot of things. Weight loss may be due to certain medical conditions. However, it could well be due to physical difficulties that may restrict the elderly from shopping or cooking. It could also be due to loss of sense of taste or smell that comes with the aging process. In any case, finding out the cause of weight loss is of utmost importance.
Physical appearance. We should pay attention to other parents’ appearance, their clothes, their grooming behavior, and their personal hygiene. Deviation from the normal or routine can indicate conditions that need to be investigated further.
Safety. As our parents age, their mobility and physical capabilities deteriorate. Stairs that used to easy can eventually become a difficult hurdle. We should pay more attention to health hazards (e.g. things that increase risks of falls or other injuries, fire hazards, etc.) in the elderly’s accommodations.
Behavior and social life. We should watch out for mood swings and abnormal behavior in the elderly. This will include looking for signs of depression and looking into their social life. It is well-known that an active social life keeps the elderly fit and lowers the risk for dementia. Depression, on the other hand, can be indicative of underlying medical conditions.
Mobility. Loss of mobility becomes a big risk with age. This loss can mean loss of independence for the elderly and can greatly affect all of the abovementioned problems. The elderly sometimes are the last to admit that they have problems with movement. It is up to us to monitor them and watch for signs of loss of mobility.
By watching out for these problems related to aging, we can take action to prevent the problems to worsen. Mayo Clinic recommends the following course of action: