By Sal Gomez-Orozco, Designated Manager Mesa Valley Estates Assisted Living and Memory Care

The first indication Jane’s grandmother’s health was in decline occurred at Christmas, 2010. She had walked into grandmother’s home and it felt – actually, it smelled – unfamiliar. Instead of the familiar scents of acrylic paint, canvas, ink, the lake breeze and almond cookies, the air smelled stifled, musty, and damp. Her grandmother’s art supplies were collecting dust in the corner and from the looks of it, she spent all of her time – meals included – in her recliner chair.

During my time in senior living, I’ve worked with many adult children and their families. There are telltale signs that signal aging parents may need help. As Jane’s family experienced, the scent and condition of a home is often the first sign that people can no longer take care of their home or themselves or that living at home may no longer be a safe option.

If you’re visiting your aging parents this holiday season, here are a few suggestions to help evaluate whether they need assistance or can no longer live safely at home:

Lean in for that long-awaited hug. Notice if there is a significant change in parents’ weight or personal hygiene. Changes in either could signal a medical condition, depression, or difficulty with daily activities such as showering, grooming or laundry.

Take a good look at your parents’ surroundings. Is the house cluttered, dusty or otherwise unused? People who never used to hoard may now have piles of mail, clothing, or food. This could indicate general upkeep is something they can no longer do, but they are hesitant or embarrassed to ask for help.

Take a peek in the refrigerator. Is the refrigerator stocked with expired food, left-over fast food, or hardly any food at all? This could indicate shopping for food and preparing meals may be too difficult and lead to malnutrition and other illnesses.

Are they living on an island in their home? Everything Jane’s grandmother could possibly need was located within arm’s reach of her recliner. Snacks, bottled water, checkbook, glasses, pens/paper, mail, medication, stamps, scissors and nail clippers, a calendar, dictionary, church newsletters, hand cream, Band-Aids and even a roll of Scotch tape. She called this space her ‘office.’

 Ask the right questions. Ask your parents what they do for fun, who they socialize with, or where they go when they leave the house. If they are church goers, do they still attend church? Is the weekly card game with neighbors still happening? If not, why?

People at every age need human interaction, purpose, and joy in their life. If watching television or reading is their only pastime, if they aren’t socializing with others, or never leave the house, then they likely aren’t getting the fulfilment they need.

 Evaluate parents’ mobility. Do they appear unsteady or shaky? Do they have trouble with balance? Are there signs of pain or injury, fresh bruising or scratches for which they can’t explain?

Engage in conversation. Can you have a two-way conversation? Do they seem unusually or repeatedly confused about dates, times or names? Are questions and choices overwhelming? Do they seem fearful or reluctant to leave the house?

Notice the mail. Is the mail piling up? Older adults are targets for financial fraud so

Notice if there are an unusual number of envelopes from banks, charities, or creditors.

Take stock of health needs. It’s not unusual for older adults to have an increased number of doctor’s appointments when they’re seeing specialists. But an unusual number of appointments with a primary care physician could be a red flag. Pay attention to their medications. Are they organized or strewn on the counter with bottles caps off? This is dangerous and indicates your parent needs help managing his/her medication.

Not all changes are cause for concern

Just because a laundry hamper is overflowing, you discover a dent in Dad’s SUV, or Mom is moving more slowly, there may not be cause for concern. But when multiple issues start adding up, living at home may no longer be a safe option.

If you’ve discovered that your parents need extra help or care, realize that this is unknown territory and that you could use some guidance and perhaps someone to talk to. Then, find a local support group or reach out to an assisted living community like Mesa Valley Estates for guidance.

Most of all, enjoy your time with your aging parents this holiday season and remember the best gift you can give them is your gift of time.

Mesa Valley Estates Assisted Living and Memory Care opened its doors in the fall of 2019 to offer seniors and their families a new option in senior living care and service. Located at 1328 Bertha Howe Ave. in Mesquite, visit www.mesavalleyestates.net or call (702) 344-5050 if you have questions or need more information.