Signs Your Parent May Need Help at Home
As the Baby Boomers turn 65 (at the rate of one every 10 seconds), more and more Americans will find themselves with senior-aged parents and faced with some potentially difficult realities. Among those, recognizing when Mom or Dad need help at home. Aging parents are often in denial that there is a problem and, often, the kids either don’t see it, or are also in denial. After being independent for so long, it can be difficult for someone to admit they need help.
The burden of recognizing the signs that an aging parent may need help with daily living tasks often falls on the children. It is important to communicate with your parents and let them know why you are worried and that you want to help. The best solutions will be the ones worked out together.
Here are some signs that may indicate your parent needs help:
Are appointments missed or bills not getting paid? Are common objects being put in illogical places (i.e. car keys in the freezer). Perhaps medication is being incorrectly or not at all.
If you notice any of these, an assessment (both medical and cognitive) may be in order to determine what is going on and to start to come up with some options. Knowing the cause of the condition means effective treatments can be put in place and your loved one can be kept safe.
- Difficulty Getting Around
Are your parents having trouble moving around or getting in and out of chairs? If so, having a two-story house could be problematic and put your parents at a much higher fall risk. Check for slippery tiles and furniture that creates obstacles.
Providing them with a cane or walker may be all that is needed. Or, modifications to the house may be possible, allowing them to remain at home. Your parent may be reluctant to leave their home of 30, 40, 50 years, and that’s okay. The goal is not get them to leave the home, but rather to come up together with viable options that keep them safe.
- Unusual Amount of Clutter
Is there dirty laundry or unopened mail in a home that is historically meticulously clean? Does the lawn need mowing? This could be a sign of cognitive decline, or simply that the house is getting to be too much for your parents to handle. A conversation with them could help determine what is needed: a housekeeper, gardener, or a more significant geriatric makeover.
- Change in Personality
Are there changes in your parents’ personality? Are they speaking too loudly or softly? Are they accusing people of taking their things, or exhibiting other paranoid behavior?
This could be a sign of dementia. An appointment with a medical doctor for a cognitive assessment could be important to establish a base line from which to gauge any further decline. If there is a diagnosis of dementia, that in itself does not mean that your parents cannot participate in the decision-making process; the severity of the dementia will have more of an impact on their inclusion in the conversation. However, dementia will mean that at some point they will not be able to make decisions and now is the time to make certain all legal and medical documents are in order.
It is important to remember that needing assistance does not necessarily mean leaving the home. It may be that extra help in the home environment is all that is needed to keep your loved one safe and healthy. A care manager may be able to assist with determining what extra services are needed and where to look for help. If you are concerned with a family member and would like to speak more about this, please do not hesitate to contact me. I would be honored to sit down with you and discuss your situation in more detail.