For many people, going home for the holidays means facing an unpleasant reality. Our parents are aging and, in fact, could be rapidly declining to a point that intervention is required in order to keep them safe.
It’s hard to face. After all, this means admitting that we’re getting older as well but, more importantly, the people who have cared for you all your life are now going to require your care. And sometimes, the situation is made even worse because one parent is “covering” for the other and refuses to admit that caring for their spouse is becoming increasingly difficult.
If you live nearby these changes might not be as apparent but if you visit infrequently, the decline might be dramatic. How do you know when it’s time to intervene? Here are some clues:
- Becoming forgetful, depressed or disoriented – Your parent could be feeling isolated and alone. A change in behavior could also signal an underlying physical condition.
- Forgetting to pay bills or leaving mail unopened – If daily responsibilities are not being managed the financial ramifications can be immense. Balancing a check book may have become too overwhelming.
- Had one or more car accidents – One of the most difficult decisions is when it’s time to take away a parent’s car keys. This is a loss of independence that is profound but the potential of a life-threatening accident in which your parent is hurt, or someone else, is too great to ignore.
- The refrigerator is empty or full of spoiled food – Whether your parent has forgotten to grocery shop or feels that it is too overwhelming, not eating properly or getting sufficient nutrition can lead to severe health issues.
- The house is messy and your parent is not taking care of personal hygiene – If your parent has always been a tidy person and now the house is cluttered, daily chores might be too difficult. Your parent also might fear slipping in the bath tub and avoid bathing. Falls are the leading cause of injury for older adults and clutter is a big culprit.
If you’re friendly with your parent’s neighbors, ask them if they have notice a change in behavior. Make sure that you are aware of any prescribed medicine and check that your parent has been taking it regularly. Check that smoke detectors are in good working order. If you don’t live nearby, it’s also a good idea to check with local community organizations that can check in on your parent and provide meal delivery and transportation if required.