The 10 Signs Your Elderly Parent Needs Help
Help! I Am Concerned About My Parent!
How do you know that your parent is in need of intervention?
Are you really seeing a problem or are you imagining it?
You see, most of us really don't want to see that our parents are beginning to have problems. Their arms have always been strong enough to hold us, their minds have always been sharp enough to give us the answers we were looking for, and we don't want to believe that those times may be coming to a close. Most of the time, our parents won't admit it, either, and often get angry if it is suggested to them that they may be needing more help than they used to. Since it is hard to accept, and harder still to confront, many of us leave the issue as the white elephant in the middle of the living room.
We know there is a problem, but no one wants to mention it. Sadly, with this head-in-the-sand philosophy, you and your parents will end up with some serious issues. Having open discussions and knowing what their desires are will help you make wiser choices when the time comes.
Talk About It before It Happens
Ideally, you can discuss things before they happen. Hopefully, you will talk to your parents when they are still younger and not having problems. Ideally, you will come to a place where you and they have reached decisions about what to do, "just in case...".
It is hard to bring the subject up, but if you are still years away from dealing with their aging problems, please do broach this important issue. Take notes. Sign and date the notes and have them do the same. Copy the notes and put the signed and dated originals away in a safe place. It may make it easier to carry out those decisions and plans if you can show them what was decided, show them their signature on it, and hopefully move ahead according to that plan. You may even want to have them notarized. If there is ever a question among siblings or anyone else, then you will have those dated papers as proof of what was decided.
Signs Your Elderly Parents Need Help
How can you assess your parent's ability to be independent without dragging them in to a doctor?
If you are feeling concern, then you are probably seeing something.
Here are some signs that they may need help. Keep in mind that many of these can be signs of depression or other issues, too.
1. Sudden Lapses In Housekeeping
Mom has always been a great housekeeper, but lately the house has begun to be cluttered. This can mean a lot of things. Maybe she has been busy, perhaps she is more tired than usual, or maybe she is becoming overwhelmed with the daily chores. Keep and eye on this and look for other signs, including clues that it is getting worse. You can help by stopping by more often, casually doing the dishes, or offering to vacuum. Keep it light and help her catch up. If the problem seems to continue, then she probably isn't just tired.
2. The Mail Is Piling Up
Dad is letting the bills and other mail pile up. He may become overwhelmed by tasks that used to be easy to deal with. At some point, parents can no longer mentally face the decision-making that the business end of life requires. As people get older, they often become more likely to hoard things and not throw them out. Don't just go in and start tossing out what you think is trash. Gently discuss your concerns with your parent.
3. Bills are Not Being Paid
If the checking account is messed up or bills aren't being paid, this can be a troubling sign that your parent my be overwhelmed and not thinking as clearly as they used to. If possible, when you have the conversation mentioned above, have them allow you to become a signer on their checking account just in case. Money is a huge sign of independence, so walk very carefully when discussing this.
4. Weight Loss
This can happen especially after the death of a spouse. Shopping, preparing food, and cooking just becomes too much trouble. My mom was eating a carrot now and then, or a piece of celery, because it was easier. You may notice that there is no food in the fridge, or only food that is spoiled. You may be able to get around this by taking individually packaged servings of casseroles by. If you live out-of-state, ask your parent to consider a Meals on Wheels or similar program in their area.
5. Dirty Clothes or Poor Hygiene
They either forget to change clothes (sometimes sleeping in and wearing the same things for days) or they put on the same clothes every morning. This is a big problem and a tough one to deal with. If you can talk to your parent's doctor and get some advice, do so.
6. Inappropriate Clothing
Wearing summer clothing in winter, going out without a coat, not wearing shoes (when they normally would), leaving off articles of clothing — all of these things should be checked into.
7. Signs of Confusion in the Kitchen
If you find pots that are burned on the bottoms because they have been left to boil dry, water stains or mildew under the sink or elsewhere because water was left on and forgotten about, dishes that are unwashed for long periods of time, or food left out, these are all signs that your parent is at risk.
8. Loss of Memory
Missing doctors appointments, forgetting to take medications, missing church when they have been regular church-goers: these all may indicate a problem. My mom forgot about my daughter's wedding, and we had to call her and then postpone the ceremony for over an hour while waiting for her to get there. We did not see it as a problem at the time but looking back, it indicated what was to come.
9. Just Acting Weird
This may be a hard one for my kids. Maybe I should say, acting weirder than normal! Odd conversations, signs of paranoia, accidentally taking too much medication, phone calls at odd hours, unusual fears and nervousness... all of these things may be signs that your parent needs help.
Familiarize yourself with the signs of depression. Many of problems mentioned here can also be indicative of depression. A doctor can more easily assess your parent for problems and make treatment suggestions.
Above all, be gentle. No one wants to get old, no one wants to lose their independence.
It is a difficult time for everyone but it will be even more difficult if you aren't sensitive to your parents' needs.
Get Help - The National Council on Aging
If you see any of these signs in your parents, discuss your thoughts with them. Share your concerns and see what they say. Try to get them in to the doctor if you think it is necessary. The doctor can point you to various agencies that may be able to help, and can more closely observe your parent the next time they are in for an appointment. Remember that the doctor cannot give you confidential information about your parent.
Help For the Caregiver
Indispensable Resource for Caregivers
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