It’s only natural for parents to want to live independently for as long as possible. As a son or daughter of aging parents, you can help them remain safe while maintaining their dignity and independence. The best defense is a good offense. When visiting your parents, be observant. If you live far away, ask a neighbor to check in on your parents.
Here are several signs that will help you know when Mom and Dad are having trouble managing by themselves:
- Health changes: shortness of breath, increased pain, unexplained bruises or other injuries, difficulty walking, changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Memory loss: missed appointments, losing or misplacing items, repetitive conversation, missed doses of medications or medications taken at wrong times
- Mood changes: loss of interest in usual activities, being withdrawn, prolonged sadness, increased irritability, unusual fears
- Poor safety judgment: stove burners left on, unexplained dents in the car, getting lost, dressing inappropriately for the weather
- Decline in personal appearance: wearing the same clothing, poor grooming and/or hygiene
- Decline in living conditions: house not being kept up like it used to be, dirty dishes or paperwork piling up, rooms messy
- Difficulty managing finances: unpaid bills, unable to maintain checkbook
There are some simple ways you can help your parents continue to live independently. If a parent is having trouble managing money, offer to balance their checkbook or help them set up auto-pay for their regular monthly bills. If there is spoiled food in the refrigerator or your parents aren’t eating well, help clean out the fridge regularly and take them shopping for groceries for easy-to- fix meals. Arranging for housekeeping assistance once a month can make a big difference.
It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone. There are many resources in the community that can help if you, your siblings or other family members are feeling overwhelmed.
You can start by talking to your parents’ physician. Home health services provide nursing care, therapy, medical social services, and home health assistance. Many communities also have a senior companion program so Mom and Dad won’t always be alone at home if you can’t be there.
What signs are you seeing in your parents’ living situations that concern you? Or do you have suggestions for other daughters and sons caring for aging parents you’d like to share? We’d like to hear from you.