When you visit your aging parents lately, do you sometimes notice things that seem “off” about them? Maybe Dad can’t find his medications anymore, or Mom won’t talk about that mysterious dent on the car. Maybe one time you noticed that one of them left a kettle boiling on the stove.
These are universal “something’s not right” signs that might give you pause. You may wonder how you can “be there” for your parents when you can’t be there all the time. You may ask yourself if it’s time to think about getting an in-home caregiver to help your parents age safely and comfortably at home.
To help you tell if your parents may need more help than you’re able to provide, look for these signs that they may need assistance:
• Missed medication: Missed doses and medication mistakes can lead to very serious medical complications.
• Mysterious dent: Look for evidence of parking or speeding tickets, fender-benders, dents, and scratches on the senior’s car.
• Piling mail or unpaid bills: Seniors can feel overwhelmed by the simple task of opening, sorting, and responding to mail – let alone performing more complex tasks like paying bills or balancing the checkbook.
• Lost walker: Misplacing vital items – like their walker or the housekeys – or leaving them behind in a restaurant or retail store can indicate cognitive decline that would benefit from professional caregiving.
• Piles of laundry or dishes stacked in the sink: Many older adults become too tired or frail to cope with the usual housework.
• Poor personal grooming: Showering, shaving and other grooming tasks take energy your parents may no longer have. Or they may stop grooming because they feel unsafe getting in and out of the tub on their own.
• Reports of falling: One in four Americans over age 65 fall each year, and falls are a leading cause of death among older adults. That’s a shame because most senior falls are preventable.
Any of these signs of decline should trigger a discussion about the types of support your aging parents need. That can be a tough conversation to have, but you need to have it to keep your parents safe and well in their own home. Use these tips to open the conversational door:
• Be empathetic. Try to put yourself in your parents’ shoes. Nobody likes the idea of becoming unable to keep up the house or take a shower safely. Try to draw out their feelings about how things are going and re-state the messages you’re hearing so they know you’re reading them correctly.
• Focus on maximizing their independence. Many older adults fear being sent away to a nursing home or some other institution. Emphasize early in the conversation that your goal is to help them stay safe and well at home for as long as possible.
• Develop a plan. Together, you and your parents can create a plan that meets their needs in the moment and expands as they need more help.
• Seek out resources. Don’t try to create this plan alone. Seek out information from your Area Agency on Aging, senior centers and your local Home Instead office. These experts will be able to help you develop a solid plan that makes life easier for Mom and Dad for years to come.
You and your parents don’t have to go it alone. Schedule a free, in-home Care Consult with a home care agency to get an objective evaluation of how your parents are doing on their own. They can conduct a home safety check, review the ability to perform activities of daily living, assess medication management, perform a social assessment – and then make recommendations for a care plan that will serve your family’s needs today and can scale up in the future, if desired.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.