The effects of aging can often go unnoticed-they don’t arrive with loud announcements or big, bold signs. It is common for medical issues associated with aging to become apparent only when they have become severe enough to warrant a doctor’s attention. Your aging loved one is unlikely to openly admit that they are becoming helpless, however, which is a problem. They may have a few bruises on their leg or arm, dismissing them with “It’s fine, honey. Nothing to worry about.”

Due to these reasons, it is important to identify on your own whether your elderly family member may need a medical alert device or other medical or caregiver assistance.

It may be easy to recognize your loved one’s increasing physical weakness if you are still living with them. Those who already have families of their own and make occasional weekend visits will have to be more selective. It may be difficult for the aging person to get up from a seated position-they may try to hide it, but perhaps you can see the strain on their face. In addition, they may “hobble” rather than walk normally. Keep an eye out for any signs of loss of balance or decreased mobility. It may be necessary to consult a doctor to determine if they have an underlying medical condition, or if supportive devices are needed.

You may have seen the news reports about how a house belonging to an elderly person was literally brimming with garbage. While this may be an extreme case, clutter is more likely to be a manifestation of this warning sign-dirty dishes that have been in the sink for days, thick dust or grease on the furniture, piles of dirty laundry, a mailbox full of unchecked, unopened mail, late payment notices, bills, bounced checks, or anything else. Neglect is never voluntary- whether the aging loved one suffers from a disorder or a medical condition or is physically unable to keep the house clean. Whatever the case may be, they may need assistance that can help them manage their daily lives.

Aging adults may seem to have stopped caring, not just about their living space, but also about their own cleanliness. As mentioned above, this is a warning sign regarding neglect of the upkeep of the living space. They may need your attention if he or she ceases to brush their teeth, trim their nails, or emits an unpleasant body odor. An undiagnosed medical condition may cause them to avoid or neglect even basic grooming tasks such as showering or taking a bath. A strong odor of urine may indicate that your aging loved one is already incontinent and could use some help from you.

As a person ages, their inability to remember even simple things can be frustrating not only for themselves but also for their family and friends. The problem is that, while minor forgetfulness can be entertaining, a significant inability to recall once-familiar tasks can pose a serious risk to them. They might forget to shut off the gas to the stove, or board the bus and find themselves in a completely unfamiliar place far from home. Memory loss may be caused by a variety of cognitive impairments, but only a trained physician can diagnose them.

These warning signs should not be ignored, as they can lead to far more serious issues. While this list is by no means complete, it does provide a quick snapshot of some of the things to be on the lookout for. More often than not, it is up to adult children or other family members to recognize these signs as the aging loved one should not be expected to do so. Bear in mind that while medical alert devices are the easiest way to provide round-the-clock assistance and protection for an elderly loved one, your family’s unique situation may require much more than this. If you and your loved ones need help in determining the best course of action for your aging loved ones, reach out to us for support. We would love to learn more about your family’s needs and help develop a plan that takes into account everyone’s best interests.