Seeking Help for Your Aging Parent: Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

shutterstock_129923204The indication that your parent needs the support of a senior community often comes from a build up of little things. You see a bruise on your mother’s arm, which she brushes off with a shrug and a two-word explanation: “I fell.” Or maybe you notice your father has worn the same clothes over and over again without proper laundering. Maybe your parent’s health and hygiene are fine, but the food in the refrigerator is all well past its expiration date.

If this sounds like your mom or your dad, you should determine if they need additional assistance immediately. If you don’t heed the signs of potential cognitive or physical decline, your aging parent could face a health crisis that causes your family enormous emotional—as well as financial—distress.

Know the Red Flags

Andy Turner, director of Home Care and Ancillary Services for CP Home Care LLC, identifies several “red flags” that will help you determine if your parent needs help. These include:

  • An increase in falls or stumbles over furniture
  • Difficulty walking or an uncomfortable gait
  • Withdrawal from social activities or anxiety about going out in public
  • Missed appointments (e.g., hair stylist, doctor’s appointments, etc.)
  • Decreased activity, lack of regular exercise
  • Increased episodes of forgetfulness or memory loss
  • Neglectfulness of personal hygiene or decline in household upkeep (especially if it comes on suddenly)
  • A change in eating habits—i.e., eating less, hoarding food, less interest in cooking meals, more consumption of sweets or snacks
  • Missed medications or incorrect dosages
  • Signs of depression or loneliness
  • The inability to complete simple daily tasks of everyday living

“Any one of these things would be a trigger for a spouse or a child to start paying closer attention to some of the activities that are going on in their loved one’s life,” Turner says. “And certainly if it’s compounded with several of these signs, then it’s time to sit down and have a conversation.”

Starting the Conversation

Your loved one may try to change the subject, but starting such a conversation will enable you to review various senior care options with your parent in a non-urgent setting and also address financial and estate planning considerations. Don’t wait until a crisis occurs to address these issues. A medical crisis—in which your parent experiences a fall or other medical emergency that lands them in a hospital, rehab center, or other type of skilled care facility—may generate harried, rushed, or ill-informed decision making that will make a bad situation even worse.

“Whenever we wait until it’s too late and a situation reaches a crisis, sometimes we make decisions that are not healthy,” Turner says. “Having the foresight to make arrangements prior to those situations for an elderly person can save a lot of financial stress and the emotional issues that go along with it.”

A Gradual Approach Is Best

Frequently the best approach is to introduce help for your parent on a gradual basis—starting, for instance, with part-time, in-home care and then progressing as needed to meet the individual’s needs. Individuals are able to receive what is known as a “continuum of care.” Turner explains that such services may start with a non-skilled/personal care companion service, in which the companion goes into the home two or three days a week to provide light housekeeping, prepare meals, do laundry, buy groceries, and/or accompany the individual on doctor’s appointments. As your parent’s needs progress, you may need to move to the next level of in-home care, consisting of Skilled Nursing or therapy. Should your parent’s needs progress further, then you may need to consider an Assisted Living community.

shutterstock_104963942Turner stresses that moving into an Assisted Living community will not curtail the individual’s independence or freedom. “In fact, those freedoms may be strengthened in a community, where there are activities happening on a daily or weekly basis.”

Introducing help on a gradual basis facilitates the acceptance of a higher level of care if your parent’s condition takes a turn for the worse. In Turner’s words, “It builds a level of trust.” Once you and your parent are ready to take the step toward a senior living community together, a professional Senior Living Advisor from OurParents can help you find the best community in your area based on your budget and the specific needs of your loved one.

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