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 need the help. This way, everyone is proactively putting a plan together. They are able to ask the right questions and more importantly, 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. Therefore, there is no time to research properly during any traumatic event. Since all heads are not always as clear as they need to be about making such important decisions, wrong action or decision can be made. However, if you start the conversation, prior to the “need” you can put the correct plan in place. In addition, when you need to bring in help, you have already chosen the right care, the right resources, and the right agency.
If you live locally to your parents, you are better able to access the situation. You can begin the conversation at the first sign that a talk is due. It is harder for families who don’t live close by. You might need to rely on the answers that their loved ones are giving you. Therefore, it is important for adult children to listen for attitudes or behavior changes. It can sometimes become necessary to listen to a close friend of theirs. Even a 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. This will help you 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 – When the water or electric company turns off the utilities, or they forget to pay the bills, 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. When the house is cluttered or unkempt – Your mom prides herself on keeping a tidy house, but you notice 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. When you ask, “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. As a result, this 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. Make sure your reminders to take their medication is not met with resistance. Admitting to forgetting to take their medication, can be a sign of short-term memory loss or depression. Above all, this is not just a quality of life issue, but a real risk factor.
9. Inappropriate behavior, clothing or speech. Once again, if you live far away, you might need to rely on a neighbor. Ask them if your loved one is 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, when visiting you begin to notice the house is unkept. The lawn is severely overgrown, the trash is piling up or repairs are going unnoticed. This can signal that it is time to have care brought in, or new living arrangements made.
Start the Conversation
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. As well as having 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. Try to have a close friend or relative back you up. They can help make the changes easier for everyone. If the adult children live out of the area, it can be especially helpful.
At Platinum Select Nursing, we work very closely with our clients and their family.
We 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. This puts long-distance family members at ease knowing their family member is safe.
Above all, the best time to begin talking to your family is before any of these warning signs. Start with, “When it gets harder for you to be on your own, what plan do we need to put in place? In other words, let them know you are preparing for “when the time comes.”
Knowing their wishes, and concerns will allow everyone to plan ahead, and most importantly, keep everyone healthy & happy.