Knowing when your parent needs additional help
Knowing when your parent needs help with day-to-day life is not always straightforward. This is the person who raised you and it can often be difficult to see exactly how they need help. If you live close by and are with your parent consistently then very often the decline can be so gradual that you it simply is not obvious to you. Alternatively, if you are not around as much you then don’t see the accumulation of little things that happen. Then, suddenly, something big happens. Car accident, cooker left on, accidental overdose of medicines, the list is long and scary. When something big happens you know that it is time for help . Be on the alert for warning signs and act early, do not just wait for something big.
- Your parent is more forgetful to the point of missing appointments or forgetting things you know they know. Loosing track of details is an early symptom of dementia. Be alert for changes in cognition. These early signs may mean your parent needs help keeping track of medications and appointments and maybe someone checking in on other household things daily.
- Unexplained body bruises or scratches on the car. These little things may be indicators of a loss of dexterity or reaction time, or, declining vision. Catching this early can prevent a worse accident and depending on what is causing the issue may be curable. If the condition is permanent help driving and doing the heavy house work should save trouble down the line.
- Unkempt appearance or smell, or, very messy house. You know what normal is for your parent. When keeping up with personal care or home care starts to slip below what is normal for them look into the reasons why. There might be dexterity or strength issues or even depression but letting it go too long can lead to health problems and hazardous living conditions. Someone to help clean the house or do washing is a very easy to find. Some to help with personal care is harder for an independent senior to accept but tell them how important their health and happiness are to you and it should help.
- Moving slowly or using things for balance. Mobility assistance may be needed if strength and balance become an issue. If ignored too long a fall is inevitable. Working with a doctor on why there are balance issues is a first step but to keep things safe look into safety upgrades for the house and a walker, cane or wheelchair depending on severity. A walker is not that fun but it is better than a month in the hospital with a broken hip.
There is no need to over react, not every little thing is a sign of impending doom. If you keep a look out for patterns and small declines you should be able to help before something big happens. Talk with their friends and any siblings to have an open dialogue so nobody lets something go because they thing someone else is taking care of it. Most importantly, talk to your parent as an adult and help them realize the upside to help and how much they mean to you.
As an adult child, you are unable to anticipate your parents’ need for assistance until a traumatic event takes place. Emotional distress and the work/life crisis can hit you like a runaway train, making it very painful and difficult to make educated decisions you can become comfortable with. One way to avoid this is to start monitoring your parents’ physical and mental abilities today, and research your care options should your parents begin to show signs of needing assistance.