7 Signs Your Loved One May Be Slowing Down

October 17, 2022

What to look out for during the holiday season

As the holiday season approaches, there is always a lot to look forward to. It’s often a time when we see family members we may have not seen in a while. For adult children, going home for the holidays can be an eye-opening experience, especially if they haven’t seen mom or dad, grandparents, or even aunts and uncles for an extended period. During these visits, signs our loved ones are slowing down can become more apparent.

It is in these times we might notice things about our loved ones that hadn’t caught our attention before, even if we’re around them all the time. We might notice they’re struggling to do that grand Thanksgiving spread, they might struggle with the Christmas shopping that they once looked forward to, or place settings and decorations may not be as lavish as they once were.

These are just some broad stroke signs your loved ones may be slowing down and might find themselves in need of more care and assistance.

Here are some things to keep an eye on during your holiday visits.

daughter comforting mother who looks distraught

1) Are there signs of mental decline?

This is very often the one that comes to mind when we think of our parents slowing down and possibly needing additional care. It may even be the one that we, as their children and family members, fear the most, because it means, very soon, life with them will not be the same.

While it is important to try and catch early, signs of cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s can be difficult to detect at first. But early symptoms may be extremely difficult to detect as they often start off very subtle. Mom and Dad very likely won’t even know it is happening to them.

  • Are they having trouble remembering events or conversations?
  • Do they struggle to follow, or carry on a normal conversation?
  • Have you noticed they strain to complete tasks that require concentration or mental effort?
  • Have they had confusion about times or locations?
  • Have they been misplacing things and forgetting where they left them?
  • Have they become paranoid, or have they unjustly blamed a trusted friend or family member of theft or a similar accusation?

2) Are there safety concerns in their day-to-day life?

Aging loved ones often find themselves at an increased risk of injury due to their age. They become more and more likely to have a fall, more health complications, and other minor and major accidents. Knowing what to look for in these areas will help you identify when they may need more care in their everyday lives.

Some things to keep an eye on and listen for during holiday conversations:

  • Have they had a fall recently?
  • Are they complaining about getting around the house more than usual?
  • Have they had any car accidents, no matter how minor?
  • Have they made any mistakes in their medications?

concerned elderly husband sitting next to depressed wife

3) Have you noticed changes in their behavior?

Behavior issues in seniors may not be apparent right away, especially if you’re with them on a more regular basis. If it has been a while since you’ve visited with them, these changes may be more apparent.

Here are a few things your family might notice:

  • Have you noticed they are more irritable lately?
  • Do they seem to be forgetting common things more often?
  • Are you noticing any abnormal mood swings?
  • Are they having trouble with normal conversation?

This is where conversations with your siblings and other family members may be helpful. If you’re around Mom and Dad all the time, your family may be in from out of town and may notice much more than you.

4) Are you noticing a decline in health?

Changes in Mom, or Dad’s, health can be difficult to identify. Outward appearances may seem normal, but there may be underlying issues that, if caught early on, can dramatically improve their quality of life for much longer.

Of course, there are also sudden changes in health that are easier to see. While these challenges may not signify the need for immediate assisted living care, if they are left untreated, they can lead to the need for assisted care sooner than expected.

You’ll want to be on the lookout for these and other symptoms:

  • Are they lacking energy or becoming tired more easily?
  • Are they exhibiting any chronic symptoms, like coughing or wheezing?
  • Are they experiencing any hearing loss?
  • Have they complained about chest pains or shortness of breath?

elderly man looking older

5) Is there a change in their appearance?

Changes in appearance can happen gradually over time, or be more immediate and can signify underlying symptoms that can threaten their ability to live on their own, or without additional help in their care. Often, these changes link directly to health issues and can be early warning signs of a much more serious problem.

Changes in appearance can also point to cognitive decline as well, especially if you notice their hygiene isn’t what it used to be.

  • Do they just generally look less healthy?
  • Are they dressing differently? Do their clothing choices make sense to their typical style, or simple things like the current weather or season?
  • Are they lacking their normal hygiene? This could be as simple as not combing or brushing their hair like they used to.

dirty pots and pans left in sink

6) Are there changes in the home’s appearance?

It isn’t uncommon to begin noticing a concern with Mom or Dad in the home itself. If Mom is normally neat and tidy, or Dad is usually meticulous about putting his tools away, a difference in this behavior may be an indicator they are slowing down.

  • Is the house more cluttered than usual?
  • Is the house just generally not as tidy as it used to be?
  • Are general repairs becoming bigger problems because they haven’t been addressed?

woman in bed next to medicine unable to sleep

7) Are they showing signs of depression?

This one may not be a direct physical or mental reason to find more care for Mom or Dad. But it can certainly highlight where a little in-home care, independent living, or even assisted living can come help alleviate the symptom of depression.

These care options often include social, physical, and mental activities designed to combat depression.

Regardless of age, depression is a mental illness, and it can affect anyone at any stage of life. It can very easily lead to, or be a symptom of, other mental and physical health problems.

  • Have they had a loss of interest in normal activities?
  • Are they experiencing excessive feelings of guilt or worthlessness?
  • Is it more difficult for them to concentrate or make decisions?
  • Are they experiencing insomnia or are there other changes in their sleep habits?
  • Are they more easily fatigued, or do they have a general loss of energy?
  • Most importantly, are they having thoughts about death or suicide?

Certainly, this isn’t an exhaustive list. There can be many other signs they may need more care beyond what’s mentioned here. The painful truth is, if you’re noticing any signs of different behavior, a decline in activity, a lack of mental focus, or other indications they are slowing down, it may be time to consider a little more help for them. It may even be time to look for alternative living arrangements that will help them thrive in this new and adventurous stage of life.

It is never easy to see those you love slow down, and the daunting prospect of what to do next can easily become overwhelming. Fortunately, there are advocates here that can help you and your loved ones navigate a transition that will help them enjoy life at their new pace.