Here are some warning signs to look for in an aging loved one. These "red flags" can help you, the caregiver; provide the necessary care and plans for the future.
1) Personal Care: Deteriorated personal hygiene, uncombed hair, soiled clothing, mismatched clothing, difficulty getting in and out of tub or shower without assistance, infrequent bathing, and incontinence.
2) House Keeping: Accumulation of garbage foods or soiled food, stained carpets, piles of dirty laundry, uncleaned silverware, sticky kitchen counter, reluctance to accept help.
3) Meals and Appetite: Difficulty preparing meals, decreased appetite, noticeable weight loss or gain, stale food, empty refrigerator.
4) Memory: Forgetting appointments and names, repeating stories in conversations, regularly losing or misplacing objects, loss of recent memory, repeated phone calls for the same reason, forgetting how to use the telephone.
5) Communication: Difficulty finding specific words, increasingly illegible handwriting, difficulty learning or retaining new information.
6) Mobility: Slower pace when walking, difficulty climbing stairs, unsteady gait, frequent falls, balance problems.
7) Depression: Unexplainable anxiety or irritability, decrease interest in family or friends, avoidance of previously enjoyed activities.
8) Medication: Frequently missed daily medications, difficulty recalling if medication was taken, overuse of medications, untimely reordering of medications.
9) Finances: Unopened mail, unpaid bills or bills paid twice, unbalanced or overdrawn checkbook, unexplained credit card charges, frequent transfers from savings into checking accounts, threatening letters from collection agencies.
10) Driving: Unsafe driving speed, difficulty negotiating turns, unexplained dents or scrapes, increased traffic violations, difficulty parking.
Resource: "The Elder Care Handbook: Difficult Choices, Compassionate Solutions, 2006"