3 Things Your Aging Parent Might Be Hiding

How to know when a parent needs help but won’t admit it.

We all like to think that our parents would tell us if they ever needed help with anything at all. But what if they’re embarrassed or too proud to speak up? What if they decide to just keep it to themselves?

The fact is, many seniors are quite reluctant to give up the independence they’ve enjoyed their whole lives. And even if they already rely on you for some things—like help with home maintenance or shopping for groceries—they may fear that next step. It can be stressful when they realize that driving is becoming difficult, or their balance seems off. To admit to a problem that may have serious implications is probably the last thing they want to do.

Here are three of the more serious problems seniors try to hide, and some thoughts on what to do to ensure they don’t succeed.

1. Depression

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 7 million American adults age 65 and older are affected by depression. Depression among seniors is often overlooked, however, because their symptoms aren’t always obvious and they may not want to talk about feelings of sadness or grief.

You can help by learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression, such as increased irritability, a loss of interest in favorite activities, and unexplained tiredness. If you’re a long distance caregiver, it might be harder to assess this over the phone. Try scheduling a video chat with your parent through a free service like Google Hangouts or Skype. And if you do suspect that a parent is depressed? Encourage him or her to talk to you about it—and to see a doctor.

2. Cognitive Decline

While dementia-like symptoms can show up in people of all ages, elderly adults are most at risk for cognitive decline. The challenge for caregivers: ensuring that any loss in cognitive ability is evaluated by a doctor to determine the reasons behind it.

Be on the lookout for: memory loss, an inability to recognize familiar people and places, and difficulty planning or carrying out basic tasks. And also be weary of a parent covering for his or her partner. If you notice someone is completing sentences for the other—or answering questions for that person instead of letting them speak—it may be worth further investigation.

3. Difficulty Driving

Nobody wants to give up their driver’s license, especially if it means relying on others to get around. As a caregiver, then, you can make this “transition” easier by explaining to your parent that it’s a matter of safety, and that you’ll help them find ways to maintain their independence even when they no longer have their own car. Many communities offer low cost transportation options for seniors, or introduce them to the ease of a technology-powered rideshare service, like Uber or Lyft.

So how can you know for sure when it’s time to ask for the keys? The National Institute on Aging suggests watching your parent behind the wheel. If they’re no longer following the rules of the road, or seem dangerously unaware of other vehicles, pedestrians, or common driving hazards, tell them what you’re seeing and indicate your concerns.

No matter what the issue is, your parent will likely appreciate the fact that you’ve gone out of your way to help them out. Just don’t expect them to ever admit it.

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Tagged with: disease management, safety, transportation

9 thoughts on “3 Things Your Aging Parent Might Be Hiding

  1. m hooper
    May 4, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    more on long distance caregiving.

  2. erin.byram
    May 4, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    Hey there M Hooper! Check out our post on Long Distance Caregiving: https://www.greatcall.com/currents/blog/caregiver/2016/01/26/long-distance-caregiving-challenges

  3. Michele
    May 30, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    My Mother is 78 years old. She has become a germophobic and will not let anyone touch her and can only come in her house for a few minutes, then says she is tired. the problem I have is that I live in another state. The neighbors told me she is writing checks to strangers. They told her she had won the lottery but needed to send them money. I asked her about it, she said they sweet talked her. I her not to write them any more checks. She did it again but the bank stopped it. I cannot afford a lawyer, and she will not give me power of attorney. There are a lot of other things se has done to show that she is having a mental problem. Since she wrote all those checks, she has no money to pay her bills. Can you direct me as to where I could get some help. Social service went to her house and she told them nothing was wrong and they left.

  4. Tom.
    June 1, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    I will be 85 this month, and my wife will be 84. I forget Dr. Appts. She has had serious problems with low O2 evals.Our time is coming, 7/24 02,has helped her memory a lot.

  5. Ellen
    June 2, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Hi Michele,

    I am sorry to hear about your mom giving away money. I am in my eldercare years myself, but I moved home so I could help out since there were serious health issues with my father.

    If I were you, I’d talk to the social services staff about your next steps. They have likely seen this happen many times with other clients. You may want to have your mom get a full medical checkup as well, including vitamin levels. Good nutrition goes a long way.

  6. Mary O.
    June 7, 2016 at 10:55 am

    I am 92, AND HEALTHY I FEEL COMPETENT T TO DRIVE BUT BECAUSE I AM OVER THE MAGIC NUMBER OF 85, EVERYONE ASSUMES THAT I AM WAY OVER THE HILL. i WANT TO TAKE A TEST. and will if the obstacles are ever overcome.

  7. D. Johnson
    June 18, 2016 at 2:32 am

    It is easy to stop the elderly from writing checks to scammers. We set it up with the bank that every check she writes needs 2 signatures, hers and mine. Without mine, the bank will not honor the checks she writes.

  8. zazaza02
    October 15, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Great article.

  9. Assisted Living Facility
    October 15, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    I wish that people had more time for the elderly.

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