It may be the day you help your father trim branches and notice him awkwardly climb a ladder. It may be the day your see your mother confused over the holiday recipe she’s been baking since you were a child. At some point in the relationship with your aging parents, roles will shift. They will become the ones in need of help.
Yet, as anyone in the field of home care services for seniors will tell you, knowing what to be aware of can keep that moment from taking you by surprise.
Reevaluate what you’ve come to expect
Home care nurses are trained to pay attention to appearance. Someone who fails to keep up with daily hygiene—things like washing, brushing teeth, or shaving—may be showing signs of a change. Noticing little things around the home can offer clues to an elderly parent’s health or mental state:
- Do burned out light bulbs get replaced?
- Are they slow to put dirty dishes or food away?
- Is simple housework being neglected?
Losing weight is another sign. Perhaps your mom isn’t eating because she’s lost interest in cooking. Diminished taste or smell, or an underlying medical condition, may also be at the root of the weight loss.
Unusual cracks in the memory
There is a difference in forgetting what you had for dinner last night and forgetting how to operate the microwave.
Home health providers will tell you the type of memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia include things like:
- Forgetting common words or names when speaking
- Becoming suddenly confused in familiar neighborhoods
- Not being able to follow simple directions
- Confusion behind the wheel or the inability to drive safely
Safe at home
As a home nursing agency, we know one of the biggest dangers aging adults face is falling from being unsteady on their feet. Muscle weakness and joint pain can also make it difficult to move around, especially going up and down steps.
Go on a walking tour of your parents’ home and take notice of stumbling hazards:
- Uneven flooring
- Bulky area rugs
- Exposed cords in the walkway
- Cluttered hallways
How are you feeling today?
How do they react when you ask how they’re feeling? Uncharacteristic mood shifts, or a resigned outlook could be signs of depression or some underlying health concern.
Pulling away from others and favoring non-activity can also signify a problem.
- Do they stay connected with friends?
- Are they still interested in their favorite hobbies?
- Do they continue weekly activities?
What to do
Understand that they are as uncomfortable with these changes as you are. So, start a conversation. Help them see that accepting assistance with difficult tasks—yard work, household chores, running errands—can actually enhance their daily life.
Encourage your parent to schedule a doctor’s visit and offer to join them on the appointment. If they resist, consider contacting the doctor directly to discuss senior home care safety.
Look into scheduling a home-care attendant or an affordable home-care service to take care of daily needs. Your local agency on aging is an excellent resource for finding professional home care services. Use the Eldercare Locator, a public service of the Administration on Aging: www.eldercare.gov