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Making The Most of Visits With Aging Parents

by Kathy Macaraeg

Do These Simple Things to Ensure Your Aging Parents are Safe in their Home

Whether you visit your aging parents weekly or a few times a year, there are certain safety issues you should walk for during your visits. Many times, during visits with family, we spend the entire visit in their living room and don’t see some of the safety hazards in the rest of their home. Making The Most of Visits With Aging Parents
While your aging parent may seem safe in his or her home, their mobility or balance can change quickly. Staying on top of their home safety is critical to helping them age in place for as long as possible. Here are some ways to maximize your visits with you aging parents so that you get quality time but also stay on top of their ability to safely live independently. Making The Most of Visits With Aging Parents

Leave the House

This may sound like an odd suggestion, but I worked with many families who visited their aging parent regularly and had no idea that their parent had a hard time getting out of the house. Whether your aging parent has front steps that don’t have a railing or use a walker that can’t be maneuvered down the steps, there are many hazards that make it difficult for a person with mobility challenges to safely exit their home.
Even if your parent is homebound, being able to exit the home is critical to their safety. What if there is a fire? What if they forget about their limitation and try to go out for a walk or get the mail. Are they able to exit and enter the house from all exits? You never know what situation could arise, so plan ahead to keep your aging parent safe.
While you are checking their ability to safely enter and exit their home, you should also take the opportunity to evaluate your parent’s driving. Perhaps you ask them to drive you to the grocery store or bakery for a treat. Riding in the car with them will give you a better perspective of their driving ability.

Cook Together

You won’t just get to learn your mother’s special pasta sauce recipe, you’ll also be able to see if she is safely able to maneuver her kitchen. Does she have the heavy pots on a high shelf? Help her find a new, easier location to store them. Are the knobs on the stove difficult to turn on/off due to arthritis? Look into new knobs or a hack to help make it easier to use.
While you’re in the kitchen, check the refrigerator for old or expired food and the food supply, in general. Is the refrigerator bare? Why? Does your parent have a hard time getting out to shop or is he/she becoming forgetful about stocking necessities. I once worked with a woman who had dementia who bought soda every time we went to the store, but she never actually drank soda. She had six packs stacked in her pantry. Do you see any oddities that were never an issue before?
Do a little digging to find out why. It may be that your parent struggles with carrying groceries into the house, so isn’t able to buy much. You may want to consider setting up online grocery delivery, or at minimum, delivery of heavier pantry items.

Allow Them to Host You

Sometimes, when we see our parents looking more frail, our instinct is to jump in and do everything. It is a wonderful gesture, but the problem is, you can’t be sure of their capabilities if you don’t watch them operate independently in their own home. Let your parent set the table, turn off the stove, clear the table (with your help of course!).
Watch to see if they are struggling with any tasks. You may be able to come up with solutions together on how to simplify tasks or you may need to consider bringing help into their home.

Get One Step Ahead

While you’re there, look for safety risks or fall risks and work with your parent to address them. You can also take a look at the following household tasks that they may need help with:

  1. Are there any burned out light bulbs? Change them while you are visiting so that your parent won’t attempt to do it on his/her own.
  2. Is the season changing? If so, ask your parent if they have blankets or clothing that is stored up high that they may need help bringing down.
  3. Are tall bookshelves strapped to the wall? You may want to consider using earthquake furniture straps so that they are secure. If your parent trips and grabs a bookshelf to stop their fall, you want to be sure they are nicely secured to the wall and don’t come down on top of them.
  4. If they are reaching for books or items on high shelves, make sure they have a sturdy step ladder with a handrail – and that they actually use it!

What other things can you think of to make a pre-emptive “strike” to ensure your parent is making dangerous decisions?
Making The Most of Visits With Aging Parents Making The Most of Visits With Aging Parents Making The Most of Visits With Aging Parents

Making The Most of Visits With Aging Parents

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