Making The Decision
When should you consider seeking help for your aging parents?
As time goes on, more and more Americans face that very question. The trend of Americans living longer, healthier lives is expected to continue. Due to improved medical options, many people are able to remain independent and active their entire lives. Some even say "65 is the new 50.” So when should you consider seeking help?
The decision is entirely up to you and should be about what best fits the needs and desires of you or your loved one. A significant majority of the population will eventually need assistance with their daily lives due to the onset of age-related problems. The older an individual is, the more likely they are to face serious health challenges that can hinder their ability to safely function independently. As your parents age, regular conversations about how they see themselves living out the rest of their lives become more important.
These conversations often include whether or not a senior living community should be an option.
What to Look For
There are a few signs that your parents may need some additional support. If one or both of your parents are losing weight, their refrigerator is not stocked as usual, or they lose interest in their usual routines, further review and discussion is needed. Be aware of physical and cognitive changes. Bruises can be an indication that they have fallen or are having trouble getting around the house.
Are they forgetting their normal hygiene, doctor appointments, or medication? They may be making more excuses for memory loss, or seem more frustrated by their confusion. Perhaps they just mention getting lost while driving or just walking to someplace familiar. They blame others for accidents: “They turned right in front of me, I didn’t see them.”
Here are a few additional things to look for in your parent’s lifestyle:
- They seem to sleep a lot in their recliner or favorite chair.
- They’re drinking or taking sleeping or pain pills more frequently.
- They don’t talk about visiting their friends.
- They’ve stopped attending religious services or volunteering.
- They’ve made some rash decisions lately that are worrisome.
- They are buying useless items on television, hoarding or exhibiting obsessive behavior.
Factors to Consider
If someone you love is exhibiting these behaviors you may need to step in before they or someone else gets hurt. Although some of these behaviors may be a red flag for major changes in health, it is important to differentiate normal changes in behavior relevant to aging and the beginning of more serious risk factors.
For instance, a newfound tendency to let the house go without regular maintenance or not keeping it as tidy can be part of normal aging, or it can represent illness and decline. There are a few factors to help you determine if your worries are justified and whether or not there are real concerns about your parent’s wellbeing and safety that need to be addressed.
Here are five factors to consider when determining if your parents need assistance:
- Driving Safety: If your parent has begun to drive erratically, there could be a number of physical causes for the behavior ranging from vision and hearing problems to medication-induced dizziness or confusion. Or, the cause could be something more serious like Alzheimer’s disease or strokes. It’s important to discover the cause of the driving problem. Encourage your loved one to get a complete physical before they get behind the wheel again. Some problems, such as hearing loss, reactions to medication, and some vision impairment may be correctable.
- Medical Safety: Many older adults rely on medications to maintain their health. Some rely on more than one medication. With multiple medications it can be easy for an older person to skip a medication, or to accidentally double up on a dose. Pill organizers, labeled with the days of the week (and sometimes even labeled: morning, noon, and evening) can help your aging parent keep their medicines straight. However, if you determine that your parents are not able to take their medication as prescribed it may be an indication that they need assistance.
- Financial Safety: There are two aspects to financial safety to consider with your aging parents. This is particularly true if one or both of them is beginning to have cognitive problems. The first question is whether or not they can manage their routine expenses. The second question is: Can they adequately make financial decisions. To determine if your parents are forgetting to pay bills or are misplacing invoices, look for evidence of unpaid bills or late notices when you know that they have the resources to meet their expenses. Not paying bills on time can result in your parents paying unnecessary late fees, or even in vital services being cut off. Adequately making financial decisions is another area to examine. Do your parents understand what pension and Medicare benefits they are entitled to? Are they likely to be pressured by salespeople into buying goods and services they don’t need? Sometimes steering them to the right financial educational resource can make a huge difference.
- Activities of Daily Living: If your parent cannot easily perform their normal activities of daily living then they will need someone to assist them. Sometimes that person is their spouse, who may be in better physical and mental health. Sometimes that person is you, the adult child. Or, perhaps your parent needs professional assistance. Not being able to perform activities of daily living can be because of physical, pathological, or cognitive challenges and a health care provider can assist with an appropriate medical examination.
- Home Safety: As your parents become older, they may become more frail. Stairs that your parents once navigated with ease may now be a challenge for them. As their coordination and strength changes, simple tasks like carrying heavy packages or sweeping the floor become more difficult. Many accidents the elderly experience at home can be prevented by modification and repair to their home. Some modifications may be simple, such as installing handrails or assistive devices in the bathroom. Your parent’s golden years don't have to be filled with danger and discomfort. With careful planning and appropriate assistance, they can enjoy a safe and healthy environment.
Finding the Right Senior Living Option
For help in determining what type of senior living option your parent or loved one may need, please contact a Brookdale national senior living advisor. We would love to help!