By Kimberly Bove
Watching your parents age can be beautiful when you witness the joy they feel at becoming a grandparent or the pride they show at a grandchild’s soccer game. However, as our parents become older, we adult children are often witnesses to frailty, forgetfulness and frustration. It can be difficult to watch. Your parents, who were once very capable and independent, begin to slip a bit. You find yourself wondering what you should do and at what point do you intervene. It can be challenging to discern between what is the normal aging process and what isn’t. You begin asking yourself serious questions such as how do you keep your loved one safe and when do you start looking for an assisted living community.
These are hefty questions and there is no one size fits all answer. Many people are fortunate enough to live to a ripe old age, unencumbered by health issues and continue to live productive and independent lives. Driving a car, engaging in social activities, volunteering, helping out with the grandkids, and going to church services provide them a fulfilling existence. But oftentimes, interest in activities such as these begin to slow down and an older adult will stop engaging in them all together. Is this a sign you should intervene?
Most experts will tell you to be on the look-out for tell-tale signs that someone may be ready for assisted living. If your loved one is having difficulties with their ADL’s or Activities of Daily Living, it may be time to intervene:
1. Are they having difficulty preparing food or eating? Give them a hug. Do they feel thin? 2. How is their personal hygiene? Is bathing or lack thereof an issue? 3. Are they having difficulty dressing or doing laundry? 4. Are they having issues with bladder or bowel control? 5. Are they capable of transferring in or out of a bed or chair without difficulty?
Older adults can be pretty good at overcompensating for their deficiencies. Their sense of pride and independence can cause them to try to “cover up” their weaknesses. You may have to be a bit of a sleuth. If they are still driving, are there any unexplained dents or scratches on the car? Is the car well maintained? Does the car have an adequate amount of gasoline? Most importantly, how are their driving skills? Are they safe?
Speaking of safety, pay special attention to falls. A fall can happen to anyone, but persistent and unexplained falls can signal an underlying health condition. Does your loved one have any unexplained bruises? This could be a sign that the environment they are living in is no longer safe.
Take a look around their home. Is the home clean and well kept? Take a peek in their refrigerator. How is the food supply? Are there any expired items? Has laundry piled up? Is the washer and dryer up or down a flight of stairs that may lead to a fall? Does your elderly parent have area rugs? They could potentially present as a tripping hazard to someone with visual difficulty or if your parent uses a walker or cane. Conduct an inspection of your loved one’s home to look for clues to their true well-being and safety.
Lastly, has your mom, who was normally a social butterfly, become more reticent and reclusive? Has she started to shy away from the activities she used to enjoy? Is she visiting with her friends less and less? Has she stopped attending events or services that used to bring her joy? How often does she see her family? Experts have determined that isolation is as deadly to a human being as is smoking! Staying active, engaged and valued is extremely important to one’s health.
When evaluating if it is time for your parent or grandparent to enter an assisted living facility, be mindful of their level of activity, potential safety concerns at home and their overall physical as well as emotional well-being. If you think it is time for your parent to move into a facility, there will be a whole host of considerations prior to selecting the facility best suited to meet your loved one’s needs. This can be a difficult time but knowing what to look for and available options will help you encounter the challenges that lie ahead.
Kimberly Bove is the Regional Director of Sales and Marketing for SageLife Senior Living. Look for follow-up articles about what to look for when looking for the right senior living facility for your loved one.