This is the first in a three part series on the three “A’s” of helping an aging loved one. The three “A’s” are Awareness, Acceptance, and Action.
Like so many members of the baby boom generation, I have been through the process of helping an aging parent. When my mom was still very independent, I missed a few of the early changes because I was not fully aware of what I should be looking for. But, even before that-not fully aware that I should be looking for anything.
There is a subtle mental shift that must take place in the mind of an adult child to bring them to a state of awareness-of watchfulness. It starts with the contemplation of the loved one as an older person. For many an adult child this realization causes some sadness and perhaps a realization of our own aging which, being human, we tend to avoid.
So, the first step is the simple acknowledgement that a parent is “older”. Now, I am sure we will all agree that the age for that keeps creeping up the older we get. So what is the right time to start thinking about parents aging? No hard number exists, but age 70 seems like a good place to start.
During the years after 70 we see an acceleration of diversity as it relates to functional abilities and health. If you line up 10 folks in their 70’s you will see a broad spectrum-some will be running marathons and in perfect health and some will be using walkers and have multiple health conditions.
In addition to making the mental shift to become watchful, it is important to know what you are watching for. According to research funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging, the following are the top warning signs that your loved one may need some help:
- Change in eating habits
- Neglected personal hygiene
- Neglect in home cleanliness
- Exhibition of inappropriate behavior
- Change in relationship patterns
- Physical problems from weakness
- Medicines not taken properly
- Decrease or stop in participation in activities that were once important
In early stages these signs will be subtle and most likely will come and go. Watch for patterns and increasing frequency or severity.
Next week we will talk about the second “A”, acceptance. Until then…
Be Well on Purpose!