Q: Over the holidays I will be spending some time with my dad, who lives in another state. For some time I have been concerned about him continuing to live alone. What signs might indicate that it may be time to seek assistance for him?
A: A number of activities could send up a red flag warning that all is not well in your dad’s household.
Since you didn’t mention what type of activities give you concern I will mention the more common activities or situations that might be a sign some type of assistance may be needed either now or in the near future.
First let’s look at the appearance of the home. An unkempt or cluttered house can signal changes in housekeeping that may come about because of a senior being depressed or physically tired and unable to keep up with the task.
Looking at the kitchen might reveal used dishes and pots and pans piled up. It might also show gas burners left on with or without empty pans on them. A look in the refrigerator could indicate two conditions. The refrigerator could be almost empty or it could contain food that is beyond its useful life. Either of these situations could be an indication of depression or some memory loss.
His personal appearance might also provide a warning. Unkempt hair, body odor, failure to change clothes and dressing inappropriately for the weather or social occasions are obvious signs that he may be unable to care for himself. This could signal the need for assistance with personal hygiene and could be the result of loneliness, depression or memory loss.
Another sign of possible trouble can be the daily mail piling up. He may feel overwhelmed by the simple task of opening mail and paying bills. This, of course, can result in unpaid bills and perhaps a signal that someone else needs to take over the financial responsibility.
If your dad is still driving, arrange an opportunity to ride with or observe his driving. If you notice a decline in his skills it may be time to arrange for other modes of transportation. Tickets, dented fenders and dents and scratches on the car can also be an indication that perhaps driving should be curtailed.
Some seniors who live alone lose interest in eating while others become reluctant to leave home. Loneliness can cause a person to pull further away from friends and family.
Missed doctors’ appointments or social engagements can be a sign of depression or forgetfulness, as can losing track of taking medications, which can result in either undertaking or overtaking proper dosages. Either condition can result in health problems.
When considering if some type of assistance is required you’ll need to sit down and have a heart-to-heart conversation. You must listen to and hear what your dad considers may be wrong and what he thinks would be the best way to resolve the problem. This will be a very sensitive subject so it should be a planned meeting when both parties are unrushed and in a calm mood.
TODAY: Path to Positive Aging Series “Advanced Alzheimer’s Disease: Knowing and Planning for What’s Ahead” presentation, 5:30-7 p.m., Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks.
SATURDAY: Memory Screening Day screenings in both English and Spanish by reservation, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks. For information and reservations call 497-0189.
SUNDAY: Presentation “History Comes Alive.” Pictorial historian provides the mid-1950s Conejo Valley with a narrative about early pioneers. 2 p.m. at Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. For information call 381-2744. Tickets are $5.
Nov. 19: “Senior Safety During the Holidays” seminar, 1:30-3 p.m. at Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive in Westlake Village. For information call 495-6250.
MEDICARE ONE-STOP-SHOPS: Thursday, Friday, Monday and Nov. 20 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the offices of the Area Agency on Aging, 646 County Square Drive in Ventura; and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Simi Valley Senior Center, 3900 Avenida Simi in Simi Valley.