How to Handle Changes in Aging Parents
Helping Your Aging Parent Remain Safe at Home
Whether you live near your aging parents or across the country from them, it can be difficult to see signs of aging. Your parents have always been the family leaders and suddenly, you notice that they’re not able to manage certain aspects of their life. They may also be working very hard to make sure you don’t see physical or cognitive changes. How to Handle Changes in Aging Parent
I worked with many elderly clients who intentionally hid their health issues from their children. They kept phone calls short or used all of their energy during visits, only to collapse from exhaustion after the visit was over. The only way their adult children got a peek into their actual physical and cognitive conditions was to visit for extended periods.
If you can’t schedule an extended visit to your aging parent, there are things to watch for to assess their well-being. Changes in your aging parent’s behavior or cognitive abilities may be a sign that you need to consider stepping is as a caregiver, even if you are stepping in as a long-distance caregiver. How to Handle Changes in Aging Parent
If your aging parent is intentionally hiding his/her well-being, it may be hard to recognize signs that they need caregiving assistance.
How to Evaluate Your Aging Parent’s Health
If you haven’t visited your aging parent in a while, there are some signs that you can look for to determine whether they are in good health. In addition to the signs below, you should also look for signs of malnutrition, which can be common with the elderly.
- Weight Loss or Weight Gain: Has your aging parent experienced an unexplained change in weight? It could be due to eating habits, but it could also be related to a health condition.
- Bruising Or Other Signs of Falls: Has your aging parent sustained frequent injuries from falls? This could be a safety issue related to common fall risks, but it could also be related to medical issues. Note – if possible, consider video calls so you can actually see them. I had many clients who hid pretty significant falls from family since they lived far away and didn’t have the opportunity to visit.
- Inability to Communicate Clearly: Is your aging parent struggling to follow conversations or forgetting things that are part of their everyday life? You may need to set up an appointment with his/her physician. Note – if your aging parent is always rushing to get off the phone, this could be a sign that he or she doesn’t want you to notice changes in communication.
- Changes to Household: Is your aging parent’s home suddenly unkempt, particularly if they are normally very neat? Are bills going unpaid? Is the refrigerator empty? These changes may mean that they are overwhelmed or unable to do these tasks independently. It may be due to physical or cognitive changes.
- Changes in Appearance: Does your aging parent suddenly dress differently or appear sloppy? If your elderly mother used to wear makeup daily and clean, ironed clothes and is suddenly wearing dirty or stained clothing and looks unwashed, there may be a problem with her physical, emotional or cognitive well-being.
- Isolation: If your aging parent has recently lost the ability to drive or has lost friends who live nearby, they may become lonely. Loneliness accounts for both physical and emotional health challenges. It can be hard to make new friends as you age, but it is critical.
How to Evaluate Your Aging Parent’s Safety
If you are concerned about your aging parent’s safety, you’re in luck. Safety issues are much easier to fix. A few changes to the home can make it much easier for your aging parent to age in place. Additionally, as technology continues to advance, it will be easier for long-distance caregivers to monitor their aging parent’s safety.
- Elder Abuse: Elder abuse isn’t just physical. If you notice a new “friend” in your aging parent’s life who limits your access to your parent or seems to have control over your parent, you may need to be on high alert.
- Fall Risks: While some fall risks are medical, there are ways to make your aging parent’s home safer to limit their falls. They can also take a balance class through their local senior center or as part of physical therapy to help with frequent falls.
- General Safety Around the Home: Do they have proper lighting at their front door (or entry door)? Is there a railing for your aging parent to hold onto when climbing stairs? If your parent uses a walker, is there a ramp? It is really difficult to use stairs with a walker.
- Stranger Danger for Grown-Ups: An interesting thing I learned when working with my elderly clients is that they answer the phone whenever it rings and opens their front door to anyone who knocks. Unfortunately, unscrupulous fraud artists know this and take advantage of the elderly by phone or by coming to their front door.
It can be overwhelming to watch your aging parent decline and realize that you will need to step in as a caregiver. The good news is, in most cases, caregiving is a process. How to Handle Changes in Aging Parent
Your assistance may only be needed for simple tasks like making their home safe or having meals delivered. In many cases, the caregiver role is gradual. Don’t panic. You can do it. And if you aren’t able to do it yourself, there are resources available to get your aging parent help. How to Handle Changes in Aging Parent
Just remember, this is the person who took care of you for many years. If they need your help, there are ways to get them help or help them yourself without drowning. How to Handle Changes in Aging Parent
About the Author
Kathy Macaraeg has worked closely with seniors and their families for the past seven years and counts many 80+ year old women as he closest friends. She created http://www.caregivingmadeeasy.com as a way to share the knowledge she gained from her clients and their families with those struggling with caregiving challenges. Kathy lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.View All Articles