Ageing is a fact of life and it is something that will affect each and every one of us. It’s difficult to imagine ourselves as being more capable than our parents, but unfortunately, as our parents get older, they can also experience regression, meaning you may have to help more than ever before.
Quality of life and health will differ drastically between individuals, and you may not be able to see any dramatic changes in your parents as yet. However, the time will come when the effects of aging become more evident, and there are a number of common issues that everyone will experience.
An overall decline in physical and mental capability may result in changes to our parent’s appearance, their standard of life, and emotional well-being. The more aware we are of how these declines will affect them and what to expect, the better we will be able to help them adjust to the changes.
As life progresses, it is completely normal to experience a relatively small amount of decline in some of our cognitive abilities. This is not always sinister, it’s a fact of life that our mind will deteriorate as we age. This is known as ‘normal cognitive ageing’ and for the most part it won’t usually affect your parents’ quality of life.
This will be short-term memory loss for the most part and can be as simple as forgetting where they left their keys, or what they had for breakfast yesterday. This can escalate to more concerning scenarios, where they forget how to get home from the post office, or that it is time to eat, and these can be signs of Alzheimer’s or Dementia.
Some of the tell-tale signs that your parents are getting older will be changes to their posture and stance, as well as fatigue and general weakness doing everyday tasks. There may be a noticeable impact on mobility when walking, cleaning or lifting, and this is an unfortunate but normal sign of getting older.
Muscle mass, bone density and joint flexibility all begin to deteriorate, and these physiological changes will affect our mobility and ultimately independence. Daily physical activity combined with a healthy balanced diet can support the health of their muscles, bones and joints and prevent early onset of limited mobility, but it is inevitable.
Reduction in Independence
The loss, or perceived loss, of independence is one of the biggest struggles when it comes to an ageing parent. Roles have been reversed: the children who once relied on them are now telling them they cannot drive, when to eat and how to go to the toilet. It’s a difficult balance to strike, but one that is needed, as a reduction in independence is common as we age.
A lack of mobility means that our parents may need assistance to go places by themselves, deterioration of cognitive ability can take away driving licenses and the act of going to the toilet by themselves diminishes with their bladder control.
There are mobility aids, resources and products available to assist, but the problem of losing their independence is almost unavoidable. HARTMANN Direct offer incontinence products delivered discreetly to their door, but the lack of independence can be frustrating for your parents to come to terms with.
Loneliness can cause feelings of disconnect from those around, but it is more than just your parents not having any close friends. Persistent loneliness can have profound impacts on physical and mental health, and quality of life: the effects of loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Nearly half of people over the age of 69 in the UK say that television or pets are their main form of company – our older generation are most at risk to feel isolated and alone. Age UK offer some great suggestions for resources and initiatives that are working to tackle loneliness in our older generation.
Ageing is a part of life, one that also comes with a wealth of life experience and good memories. These common issues faced by the elderly are manageable in most cases, and the more aware we are of them and the effect they can have, the more equipped we will be to make life as easy as possible for our ageing parents.