As an adult child, transparency between you and your parents is crucial. When you call home during the year and ask how Mom or Dad is doing, you hope that “I’m great!” means just that. But holiday celebrations bring you face to face with the reality of time.
Maybe the house isn’t as well-kept as it was last Christmas. Maybe Mom told you the same story multiple times during your visit? Maybe Dad, full of humor, forgot several times where he left his keys or wallet. By no means does this mean it’s time to panic, but it could be time to explore the world of senior living.
As your parents get older, it becomes more likely that they could experience physical and/or mental constraints that prevent them from carrying out even the simplest of tasks. This could jeopardize their health and safety. So, what should you be watching out for? What are normal signs of aging, and what indicators are more serious?
Difficulty getting up from a seated position: If your senior loved one struggles to get up from his or her seat or needs assistance doing so, then he or she is probably not going to be motivated to get up as often as necessary. Plus, what happens if someone isn’t around to help him or her? He or she could pass on taking trips to the grocery store or be unwilling to get up to take medication.
Poor hygiene: If poor hygiene becomes apparent, there’s a strong chance that your parent is either having trouble bathing or forgoing bathing. Muscle or joint pain might be preventing your senior loved one from reaching certain areas of the body or from placing enough pressure on the body to enable an effective wash. Insufficient energy may be stopping your parent from bathing altogether.
Unexplained bruises: When you visit your parents, are there random bruises or bumps? Are they gripping to the furniture as an aid? This could mean mobility problems that might occur when no one else is around. Mobility and reflex issues could be the cause of bruising, too. Your Mom could be bumping into furniture or tripping and falling. There’s a possibility that she can’t even feel the pain as it could be overshadowed by a sharper pain elsewhere in the body. The culprit of new bruises could also be a fall. One-third of seniors fall at least once a year. If your parent indicates that they have fallen, or even if you spot some bruising, have a conversation with them about their mobility.
Unexplained car damage: Your parent may think nothing of it, but minor car accidents could eventually lead to a major accident. If your loved one is unfit to drive, then he or she shouldn’t be behind the wheel. Once driving is no longer an option, some version of care will be necessary. If you noticed that your senior loved ones are giving weird excuses for not having to drive to see you, this could be a sign that they are avoiding a much bigger problem. Arthritis and poor vision can cause your parents to no longer want to make the efforts they did before when it comes to maneuvering the car.
Change in appearance: If you’re used to seeing your Dad with his shirt tucked in and your Mom dressed up no matter the occasion, then it can be odd to come across them when they look the opposite. Not caring can be a part of a bigger symptom, or they simply could have difficulty keeping things put together. This could also be a clear sign of energy loss or even depression.
Forget to take medication. You check the bottle and notice there are more pills than there should be. This could be a sign of forgetfulness, or it could be intentional.
Drastic weight loss: Are clothes not fitting like they used to? Mom and Dad may not be eating well or doing the activities they once did to keep in shape. If your parent has suddenly lost weight, poke around the house. Are there expired groceries stinking up the refrigerator? Is there enough produce and fresh food in the house to make a meal? When seniors begin to have trouble feeding themselves, they can experience weight loss and sluggishness.
Depression, apathy, or a clouded mind: More than 11 million seniors live alone. If your parents don’t have regular visitors, the resulting isolation can affect their health. Sure, they light up when the grandkids run through their front door, but how often are they seeing friends and family? The isolation of old age can lead to depression, which in turn increases the risk of dementia and heart disease.
Mood swings: This could be a result of a disruption in their mental health or frustrations over the fact that they can’t do something (such as a hobby) that they once did.
Bounced checks or unpaid bills: Aging can cause the mind to lose sharpness and awareness. As a result, your parent may forget to pay bills or struggle with fundamental calculations. There is cause for concern if you start to notice bills piling up. When your parents can no longer keep up with their financial obligations it can put them in a debilitating situation over time. Early effects of dementia can inhibit handling numbers in a complex way, leading to seniors neglecting responsibilities like taxes and utility bills. Glance at the mail in their home and start a conversation if you notice multiple past-due notices.
House and yard need care: While a poorly kept yard can be an eyesore, there’s a more serious underlying issue here. Specifically, if your parents can’t take care of their yard, they might not be able to take care of other necessary tasks, such as doing laundry or cooking their own meals. Also, a driveway that’s not shoveled can be dangerous.
Given up on hobbies and activities: It’s often concerning when parents start to prefer staying in over going out and partaking in their usual activities or hobbies. The effort it takes to get ready and drive somewhere can seem like too much. Soon they might feel like it’s too much to drive anywhere.
Forgetfulness: If you become alert to your parent’s continual forgetfulness, then you’ll definitely want to open your mind to professional help. You don’t want your parent to forget important actions like taking medication or turning off the stove. You could be witnessing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Food has gone bad: When you open that refrigerator only to see spoiled milk and expired leftovers – or perhaps no food at all – you might want to take a mental note that they can’t really shop anymore. This can also lead to poor eating habits.
Questions to Ask Yourself
It can be very difficult for a senior loved one to come clean about needing a little help. And, more times than not, the reason that they might not be asking for help is simple. They do not want to burden you. That’s where Independent Living and Assisted Living come into play.
There’s no doubt that you will have to reason with your own expectations before bringing the conversation to your senior loved one. You never want to intrude prematurely. Before doing so, make sure to ask yourself these questions:
- Are your parents able to take care of themselves, even without your help?
- Are they experiencing memory loss? This might mean a bigger conversation about Memory Care services and communities.
- Are your parents safe?
- Do you trust your parents alone, especially on the road?
- Are they social and in good spirits?
- Will a senior living community benefit everyone involved?
- Do I have the proper information to approach my loved ones?
Having the Conversation
After you feel ready, it’s time to have the talk. The roles are reversed, and it’s you who has to have what could be a difficult conversation. You remember the birds and the bees, right? This won’t be as painful. When the timing is right, sit your parents down for dinner. Express your concerns in hopes of possibly motivating them to make a change or see a doctor.
Provide thoughtful insight on how you are concerned about their safety, and share with them how much it means to you to have them safe and sound. Once you do that, feel out if it’s the correct time to introduce the idea of an Independent Living or Assisted Living community. Highlight that with the right community, they can still live an independent lifestyle with just additional assistance for things that may have taken a backseat lately.
The first conversation surely isn’t going to be the last, and this will be a multi-step process. Paying close attention to the key signs and asking the appropriate questions will help prepare you for what comes next. It may not be the time for a move just yet. However, it never hurts to know what to look for so that when holidays, birthdays and family events roll around, you can be prepared. The goal is to make sure your parents are happy, healthy and safe today and always.
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Find a community
If you’re a senior or caregiver looking for independent living, assisted living or memory care services for you or your loved one, contact us to schedule a tour or request information about a community near you.