Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

By Joey Collado

The holiday season might have left you with more than a few extra pounds to lose in January. If you’re like many adult children who enjoyed a visit with your parents, you might also have some nagging concerns about their health and safety. These joyful holiday reunions are typically when people first notice warning signs that their aging relatives aren’t managing on their own as well as they used to.

A mom once full of energy now seems frail, or a dad who was always on top of his game is now experiencing issues with memory loss.

We all value our independence, so considering assisted living can be a difficult idea to embrace and a tough topic to broach. However, having seen the results first-hand, I can tell you that in most instances, the residents I’ve come to know experienced improvements in their quality of life once arriving in an assisted-living community. Some even expressed regret at not having made the move sooner.

As you consider what you witnessed over the holidays, ask others if they noticed the same things you did. Specifically, here are three warning signs to look out for:

1. Loss of social drive — As our parents and older relatives age, their social circles also get smaller, which can lead to major health and safety issues. That’s where assisted living communities come in, offering companionship and a sense of purpose, which can help combat depression and other health challenges.

2. Unfinished business — Are there unpaid bills or stacks of unopened mail that have gone unnoticed? It might be a sign that your parent or older relative is physically or emotionally unable to handle the task. It’s important to ascertain if this is a one-time situation or something that has been going on for a while, so it’s important to check in on this frequently. If you live far away, ask a neighbor or friend to check in, and if it’s ongoing, it might be time for assisted living.

3. Eating habits — If you notice changes in weight loss or weight gain, it may be a sign that your parents or older relatives are either forgetting to eat altogether or forgetting they ate and eating meals twice. It’s important to check for stale, spoiled or expired food as that may be a sign of changed eating habits. It’s also important to check that they’re going to the store or have ample items in stock.

I know the transition to an assisted-living community is challenging for residents and their families alike, so look for places that provide support to everyone involved so that it becomes an empowering change rather than a stressful one. At the community I manage, residents have access to onsite fitness programming, art classes and chef-prepared entrees. Through movie nights, political debates and game tournaments, they remain socially active while maintaining their privacy and dignity. It’s not uncommon for people to regain their confidence and zest for life once the daily stress of caring for themselves and their home is removed.

Moving a loved one to an assisted-living situation isn’t the easiest task, but it doesn’t have to be the scariest either. When approached with compassion and understanding, it can make the senior years golden indeed.

Joey Collado is the General Manager at Oakdale of La Mesa, a San Diego County senior living community offering independent, assisted, memory, dementia and short term stay care. 

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