Health Signs of an Aging Parent

Some of the symptoms to watch for if you are caring for an aging parent or adult include:

  • Lack of personal hygiene may signal possible health problems in an aging adult, including:
  • Any big changes in the way parents do things around the house could provide clues that their health is declining. These can include:

These signs could indicate dementia, depression or other physical ailments.

Although moderate memory problems are a fairly common part of aging, there is a difference between normal changes in memory and the type of memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.

To evaluate a parent's loss of memory, consider if the memory changes are common misplacements or more worrisome memory changes like:

  • Forgetting common words when speaking
  • Getting lost in familiar neighborhoods
  • Being unable to follow directions
  • Taking an incorrect dosage of medication
  • Missing appointments
  • Making repeated and random phone calls at odd hours
  • Leaving windows and doors open and unlocked

If you notice any of these signs, schedule an appointment with your parent's doctor.

Losing weight without trying can be another sign of poor health. Weight loss can be attributed to several factors, but dramatic weight loss can indicate a more serious illness, such as malnutrition, dementia, depression or cancer. Be sure to call the doctor if your parent has experienced dramatic weight loss recently.

Often, aging parents have difficulty walking. However, if a parent is reluctant or unable to walk usual distances, this can be a sign of a more serious health issue. Providing the parent with a cane or walker can reduce the chances of falls or injuries. You many need to have your parent evaluated for being at risk for falls, which may lead to major health issues such as broken bones. Ask your doctor for referral to a physical therapist for evaluation and see if a home visit is offered to ensure the environment is safe for your parent.

Emotional signs of aging can be just as important as physical symptoms. Aging parents may feel alone, hopeless and isolated as they feel their independence slipping away. Signs of possible depression can include:

  • Irritability
  • A disinterest in previously enjoyable activities, dressing and socializing
  • Crying
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleepless nights
  • Talk of despair