Self-neglect is one of those things you’d never expect to happen to your parents. They’ve always been on top of everything. Your mom has always loved to cook and offered multiple vegetables and fiber-rich sides at every meal. Your dad insisted on being shaved, showered, and dressed in clean, stain-free clothing even on days there were no plans to do anything.
As they age, their attention to personal needs diminish. Arthritis pain can make it hard to keep up with daily chores. Decreasing cognitive skills may be interfering with daily activities of living.
Are your parents at risk of self-neglect? Watch for these three warning signs. If you’ve noticed any of these issues, your parents may argue and refuse to change. It’s important to start a discussion about getting help to keep your parents safe.
Grooming and Personal Care Get Ignored
Your dad takes off his socks and his toenails are so long they’re starting to curl. This is out of character as he was always cutting his nails and carrying nail clippers in his pocket. That’s one sign of self-neglect.
Your mom and dad are skipping showers. Your mom stopped shaving her legs and armpits, which is out of character. You’ve noticed body odor from time to time. Skin is dry and flaky. Your parent hasn’t had a haircut in years. These are all signs that your parent is neglecting his or her needs.
Clothing is Worn for Days Without Washing
Your mom has worn the same pair of jeans for weeks. They’re threadbare and dirty. You buy her new jeans, and she’ll wear those for weeks. She’s wearing the same shirts and sweaters. You haven’t seen your parents do laundry in weeks. They become frustrated when you offer to help.
They Stick to Freezer Meals and Takeout
Your parents stopped cooking meals. They fill the freezer with microwavable dinners. Most of the time, you find fast food bags or takeout packaging in their trash. There’s nothing healthy in their fridge. It seems the only food they’re eating is quick, easy-to-prepare items that are loaded with preservatives, sugar, fat, and salt.
When self-neglect is obvious, it may not be easy to get your parents to admit they need help. They may refuse to discuss it and shut down all conversation. You might have to enlist the help of a family doctor or respected friend.
Make sure you don’t use an accusing tone. Express your concern and say it would make you feel proud if you could help your parents. Once you have them at a point where they’re willing to accept help, look into elder care services.
They may resist at first, but as they get accustomed to having caregivers help with laundry, cleaning, and meals, they’ll start to enjoy having less to worry about. Call an elder care agency for more tips on getting your parent ready to have senior care services that reduce the risk of self-neglect.