For many of us, the holidays give us an opportunity to spend special time with our parents. This can be a great time to check in, not only on life events, but also a good time to look for and address any health concerns you may have for your aging parents.
As folks age, they experience cognitive and physical changes that mean they need more help to stay in their current home. Or, it may be time to start discussing future living options, from improvements to their current home, a move to a retirement community, or an assisted living facility. Here are some tips on how to assess your parents and other loved ones needs:
Watching and listening
If you have two parents, try to spend time alone with each one. Sometimes one spouse feels they need to take care of the other all by themselves. In our family, my mother took on all of caretaking when our dad got dementia. She covered for him for many years. She wouldn’t consider hiring help nor ask for much help. Finally she reached the breaking point and just couldn’t deal with it a minute longer. Then we had to make an emergency placement to an assisted living facility. That was not fun. I wished we had stepped in sooner and had time to find a place on a more relaxed timeline.
Use the holidays as a time to touch base. The goal is not to decide anything specific. It’s an emotional and tender time of year. You can check on your parent’s status and safety just by being there, chatting and watching.
Basic Needs and Cognitive issues
Offer to help make a meal with your parent and see how that goes. Are they able to start a dish, pull all the ingredients together, and follow through with cooking it? Is there a fridge full of really old bits of food? What is out on the counters? People who are having cognitive problems frequently cannot follow through a complex set of tasks to produce a meal. Are there dishes from two weeks ago in the sink or on the counter? They may need something like Meals on Wheels or someone to cook for them a few times a week. A cleaner/helper could come in every other day to help around meal times.
Go for a drive to the store and have your parent do the driving. Are they driving too slowly or not able to take in the activity around them? Most older people will stop driving at night long before they are willing to give up driving altogether. You can point out the different options for transport, such as taxis, Access, or friends.
Watch their balance and ability to move around the house. Are there clear pathways to walk without tripping? Are there throw rugs? Throw rugs are actually one of the biggest hazards in a home for an older person. Is the bathroom safe? Does it have grab bars? A raised toilet seat? When discussing the need to put in safety precautions, like bars or removing some of the clutter, it is helpful to let your older parent know that falls are the most common reason that folks wind up in the hospital–and have to move from their home. If they can keep from falling they will last much longer at home.
Do a quick cruise through the medicine cabinet. Check dates on meds. If your parent is taking a lot of medications, have a discussion about how that is going for them and if they have a pill box to organize their meds. Make a list of what their meds are so that, if you have an emergency doctor visit with them, you will have all that information at hand.
Having “the talk”
Sometimes the holidays, or just after, are a good time to have “the talk” about what your parent is concerned about as they get older. It is a time for listening, not telling. Be sensitive to what they want and respect their need to make their own decisions. We all are afraid of losing our independence. Do they want to stay in their home? A majority do. What steps can you take now to help them do that? Prepare yourself ahead of time with some options that might be acceptable to them. Or would they like to move to a community where they can get more help as they need it? Family dynamics are so different. Some families would never consider having their parent in a community where others take care of them, and yet, some parents would never want their own children to have to take care of them. There are lots of options. Start talking about it early and make a plan.
For more information and to contact a Windermere Senior Transitions Specialist, please visit: http://windermeretransitions.com/
Penny Bolton has been helping people make a move successfully in Seattle since 1991. A lifelong resident, she is known for her knowledge of the market and for her determination to get her clients their best outcome whether buying or selling. She and her business partner, Rebecca Evans, are famous within the real estate community for their thorough preparation of their listings and their professional representation of their buyers.