When you are a long distance caregiver you hope that when your parent says they’re “doing fine” that everything really is just fine. The fact is that seniors usually under report concerns and problems; even serious problems. Why do most aging parents keep the truth under wraps? Thoughts that come to mind are pride, independence, not wanting to feel like a burden. There is also societal pressure to live independently in your home for as long as possible. We’re all familiar with the plea to promise an aging parent that you won’t put them in a nursing home (we may have even asked a spouse for the same promise) or the declaration that the only way they’ll leave their home is “feet first”. If your anxiety level rockets when the phone rings, this is a sure sign that you know things may not be what they seem.
There is a tipping point when it’s clear that an elderly parent can no longer live alone or that hired help is needed to fill gaps in self-care. To get a clear picture of where your parent’s risk level is and what changes may be necessary to mitigate those risks, check out the assessments available in the How to Help Aging Parents e-book available on this site (http://howtohelpagingparents.com/). The situations that usually bring everything to the forefront are a crisis hospitalization or a visit home. Hopefully, you can help your parent make changes before a crisis hits and a visit home give you an opportunity to take a good look around at how your parent is functioning. But what exactly are you looking for? Here’s a quick list:
- Changes in hygiene – stained clothing, not bathing regularly;
- Piled up mail, laundry and/or dishes;
- Notes to self all over the house reveal memory concerns;
- Expired food in the refrigerator;
- Charred pots or burn marks on stove or in microwave;
- Housekeeping and yard care slipping;
- New scrapes and dings on the car.
Talking to a parent about these changes can be a delicate matter – they’re the parent and they don’t need their pesky child telling them what to do! Reaching out to their doctor for assistance with this difficult conversation may help as older adults usually will respect their doctor’s input. Considering hiring an eldercare professional such as a Geriatric Care Manager who has specialized training in eldercare and can provide expert advice to aging individuals and their families. You can learn more at https://www.aginglifecare.org