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When an Aging Parent Needs Support
If you notice a parent is starting to face challenges at home, what steps should you take?
Start by asking questions slowly – over a few days or a week. If you live close by and notice changes, get your facts in order. You want to have your observations ready. Be honest about your concerns and don’t shy away from discussing the worst-case scenarios, such as a fall and hospitalization, that can occur.
Something that really does work is when a child says, “Mom, you’ve done so much for me. Now it’s my turn to help you. What I see is really worrying me. What can I do to help you stay independent knowing that I can’t be here with you because of my job/schedule/children?”
Does bringing in an outside “expert” help?
Absolutely! When a doctor makes a recommendation for support services, it carries great weight. Enlist the aid of a nurse or other health professional.
What steps can you take if your parent does not want to bring in outside support?
Ask them why. Resisting is a reaction all of us would have if faced with this situation – facing a loss of independence, concerns about money, having a stranger in the house. They’re losing the feeling of being able to ‘do it all’ that we all take pride in.
If someone feels like they can’t afford it, talk to them about what it would cost to move to assisted living or have someone in full-time. Give them your blessing that you would rather they spend some of the money they want to save for you.
Offer options and talk about short-term services. For instance, encourage them to take the hour they spend cleaning and go to lunch with you instead. Often, once the person has seen the services in action and gotten to know the provider, they begin viewing them as a tool to independence.
Children often assume their parents are just putting up roadblocks, but at the end of the day if you peel away at that onion, you’re going to find out that there’s a legitmate concern – and probably one that we would have if we were in that situation.
Linda Wooge is a licensed practical nurse who specializes in caring for those with memory loss or age-related challenges. She is the Director of Asbury Methodist Village at Home and Asbury Solomons at Home, which provide home care services for older persons in Montgomery County, Md., and Calvert County, Md.
Three Signs of Age-Related Declines
- Housekeeping is a major indicator of a person’s well-being, particularly when it is not the norm. If you walk in and notice that dirty clothes are lying on the floor, countertops are increasingly cluttered and dishes are piling up, that’s a sign the person may be having mobility issues or has a lack of energy. Check the refrigerator for old food or a low supply of food.
- Observe your loved one walking. Are they picking up their feet and walking in a straight path or do you notice a shuffling gait and an unsteadiness? Are they holding onto rails or touching the walls as they walk? That is an indicator of balance and mobility declines, and that can lead to falls.
- Falling behind on financial matters is another sign that help may be needed. Is mail starting to pile up, specifically bills? Any type of financial troubles – an uptick in donations or donations to organizations you don’t know, late notices, strange credit card payments – needs immediate attention.