When to Have the Conversation About Getting your Parents Help & 10 Signs that it needs to be NOW

We believe the best time to start the conversation is before, they actually need the help.This way, everyone is proactively putting a plan together, and are able to ask the right questions and even more important, everyone is able to listen to the answers.

In a study conducted by AARP, 2 out of 10 Americans over the age of 70, said they needed help to accomplish some everyday tasks. And this is not including Americans who have a medical condition that might inhibit their ability to care for themselves. If you wait until there is a situation, like an injury or illness that requires immediate attention, everyone is scrambling to do and find the appropriate help. There is no time to research properly since during any traumatic event, heads are not always as clear as they need to be about making such important decisions and the wrong action or decision can be made. If you start the conversation, prior to the “need” and put a plan in place, when and if you need to bring in help, you have already chosen the right care, the right resources, and the right agency.

The best time to introduce the conversation that your loved ones might need help in the near future is before they actually need the help. This way you can both address your concerns and listen to each other, in order to come up with the best plan for everyone involved

If you live locally to your parents, you are better able to access the situation and begin the conversation at the first sign that a talk is due. It is harder for families who do not live close by and must rely on the answers that their loved ones are giving them. It is important for adult children to listen for attitudes or behavior changes that either their loved one is reporting to them, and sometimes it is necessary to listen to a close friend or neighbor who might be noticing changes that you have not seen yet. Either way,  you want to listen very carefully for the answers your loved ones are giving you and determine if there is a red flag or not.

Here are 10 clear warning signs that some type of intervention is needed.

1.       Mail and bills are piling up – If you notice or they begin to tell you that the water or electric was turned off, or that they bounced a check, it could be a clear sign that opening mail and paying bills can be overwhelming. If they seem to be going through money fast, or making comments about banking issues, it can be a sign that they are no longer capable of managing their own finances.

2.       Either upon visiting, or someone reporting to you that the house is cluttered or unkempt. If your mom always prided herself on keeping a tidy house, and it is no longer that way, you should begin to be concerned.

3.       Losing Weight or complaining about spoiled food in the refrigerator. If you can’t check on it yourself, ask your loved ones when they are planning to food shop, or how often they make the trip to the market. If there is spoilage, they might not be eating enough or eating less nutritionally. Moreover, spoiled foods can lead to an illness that it hard for the elderly to recover from.

4.      Confusion or forgetfulness.  If an everyday question, like “how was your day, or what did you make for dinner last night” is met with a story of burning dinner or forgetting about the casserole cooking in the oven, it could be a sign of short-term memory loss, which can certainly lead to a safety issue.

5.      Lack of Self Care.  One obvious sign that your loved one needs help is their declining personal hygiene. If notice ( or if you can ask someone who sees them regularly) if their hair is uncombed, nails are dirty and long, poor oral hygiene, poor body hygiene leading to odor, or if they are refusing to shave? All of these can be signs of a fear of falling in the shower or bathing alone. If they are wearing the same clothes over and over again, the simple chore of laundry can be overwhelming.

6.       Forgetfulness. Did they ever mention that they missed a doctor’s appointment? If it slipped their mind, it can be a sign of memory loss. Or perhaps they weren’t feeling up to driving and had no other form of transportation.

7.       Balance Issues. If you are visiting, you can plainly see if they are unsteady. But if you live far away and dad is sleeping on the couch because he doesn’t wan’t to walk up the stairs, this could be a sign that they need help. If they complain of dizziness or falls, it is a red flag and one that needs to be addressed immediately. Many elderly people are embarrassed to report that they have fallen. If they are complaining of headaches or nausea, you need to outright ask them if they had a fall.

8.       A medication check can be done whether you live near or far. If your reminders to take medication is met with indifference or resistance, or they admit to forgetting to take their medication, it can be a sign of short-term memory loss or depression. This is not just a quality of life issue, but a real risk factor.

9.       You can determine any inappropriate behavior, clothing or speech. Once again, if you live far away, you might need to rely on a neighbor or someone who has noticed that your loved one is not dressing appropriately for the weather, or going out in pajamas. That’s a sign that he or she might be confused.

10.   No longer keeping up maintenance in their home. Lastly, if when you are visiting you notice that the lawn is severely overgrown, or the trash is piling up or obvious household repairs are going unnoticed, it can certainly mean that it is time for your loved one to either have care brought in, or new living arrangements might need to be made.

Once adult children determine their elderly parent may need help or assistance, the conversation needs to begin immediately. Most times it means that a detailed assessment needs to be made and solutions are needed.

Make sure they understand that the changes can be as minor as a meal delivery service, or some home safety modifications. Maybe for everyone’s peace of mind, a medical alert device can be worn or car service can be useful. Let them know that no decisions are going to be made that are not in everyone’s best interest.

Resistance to any kind of change is common, especially among the senior population. If that is the case, having an objective third party involved can be helpful. If you don’t have a close friend or relative that can back you up, bringing in a Home Health Aid or even a Companion might be an option to help make the changes and or transition easier for everyone, especially if the adult children live out of the area. At Platinum Select Nursing, we work very closely with our clients family and are in constant contact with them to provide the best care for their loved ones. This way, we can be the eyes and ears of their parent’s everyday well-being, which put  long-distance family members at ease and confident that their family member is safe.

Remember, the best time to begin talking to your family is before any of these warning signs. An open and honest discussion can start with, “When it gets harder for you to be on your own, what plan do you think we need to put in place, so if OR when that time comes, we are all prepared?”

Knowing their wishes, and concerns will allow everyone to plan ahead, and most importantly, keep everyone healthy & happy.