Quick Checklist to help spot difficulties with senior citizens in their homes:
- Changes. On visits to your parents’ home, look for any changes that are out of the ordinary. Trust your observations and instincts if something bothers you. Ask neighbors if they’ve noticed changes. Make a doctor’s appointment and go with your relative to report concerns.
- Balance. Do you notice unsteadiness and balance problems that may cause a fall? Are there bruises that may indicate previous falls? Do you notice signs of substance abuse, confusion or frailty that might cause falls?
- Cleanliness. Has personal hygiene deteriorated? Are clothes, hair, nails or skin soiled or unkempt? Do teeth need cleaning? Is there body odor? Explore causes, including fear of using bathtub or shower, incontinence, vision loss, declining sense of smell, depression, lack of social life and forgetfulness.
- Neatness. Is a formerly fastidious housekeeper now living in a cluttered, dirty or disorderly home?
- Food. Is there nutritious food in the fridge and kitchen cabinets? Is food poor quality or spoiled or out of date? Is the pantry bare? Are there prepared frozen or fresh options? Is the kitchen messy, with unwashed dishes and pans? Any evidence of burned food, counters, stove backs, pot holders or dishtowels that indicate safety hazards? Does the senior have burns?
- Weight. Notice weight loss or gain. Inquire about difficulties using kitchen equipment and cabinets, poor eating habits such as subsisting on canned soup or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, loneliness, forgetfulness, boredom about eating alone, diminished taste, skipped meals or other physical or cognitive conditions.
- Meds. Are prescription pills and other routine drugs disorganized and out of date? Is the senior vague about compliance with medication schedules? Do dates and dosages on pill bottles match what’s in the bottles? These point to medication mismanagement.
- Money. Does this formerly organized person have piles of unopened bills, overdue notices, disorderly records, twice-paid bills, unpaid taxes? Has she loaned money to friends, relatives, neighbors, caregivers or others who are preying on her?