What are the 5 Signs that Your Parent May Need Care?
5 Signs It's Time For Your Parents To Stop Living Alone
Chances are mom's not going to admit to tripping on the living room carpet or falling on the stairs. "Seniors will rarely self-disclose because they have a fear they will immediately be rushed to the dreaded nursing home," Sutter says. Instead, do your detective work. Bruising may be a sign of falls mom isn't telling you about. Same goes for rearranged furniture. "Maybe a vase mom always loved isn't on display anymore, and she says she knocked it off the table," Sutter says. That could be pride covering up the fact that she knocked it off when she fell.
With older couples, falls can put extra strain on smaller folks even if they're the sturdy ones, says Bina Colman, a geriatric care manager with the personal healthcare assistance company Wellthy. "Men are usually the bigger of the two, and a wife may not be able to pick up a larger man," she says. "They really should not be home alone." At the very least, she says, installing medical bars throughout the home can help limit fall risk.
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You catch a glimpse of mom's prescription bottle on the counter—and it looks awfully full. "If it was prescribed 30 days ago and there are still 24 pills left, she's not taking her medicine correctly," Sutter says. Whether it's because she's made a choice or forgotten, her health could be at risk. "Misuse of medication is one of the key factors for people ending up in the hospital," she says. Find a way to tactfully ask what's happening in the medication department. It's possible the solution is as simple as picking up a pill organizer for her, Colman says, but a caregiver in the home or in a facility may be better equipped to ensure medication safety.
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This is another instance in which mom or dad is unlikely to 'fess up immediately. "The car is the last bastion of independence," Sutter says. "It's the hardest thing to talk to people about." Mom might admit she's started having more trouble with directions, or you might notice she's not attending events that used to be regular fixtures on her social calendar, saying she'll only go when a friend will drive her. But there could be tangible signs on the car itself. "Check for more dents on the car, or damage to the side mirror from getting too close to the edge of the garage door, for example," Sutter says. (Here's how to convince your parents that it's time they stop driving.)
Keep in mind the big-picture effects this aversion to driving might have, Colman says. Aging parents who aren't telling you they're no longer comfortable being the wheel could be forgoing important places they used to drive to, like the grocery store or doctor appointments.
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Little details may be some of the first signals home life isn't as safe as it once was. "One of the first signs of a friend's mother's dementia was that she came to one of her grandchildren's events in soiled clothing," Sutter says. "My friend knew her mom would never have shown up in that way previously. It was probably about 5 years before she was diagnosed with dementia, but it was a small tip-off." Other appearance changes might include a new hairstyle, weight loss, or wearing the same clothes several days in a row. You'll need your detective hat again: These breaks in the routine are not always due to an aging parent's forgetting to shower, go to the salon, or eat. "It could be depression, it could be that they're afraid to drive and can't access the beauty shop or grocery store," Sutter says.
Talk with your parent calmly about your concerns, Colman says. Reiterate that you are suggesting a new living situation because you love them and care about their health and safety. Make sure you've done your research before suggesting any particular facilities, she adds. Factor in cost, location, and activities offered there.
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