While we all know our senior parents are likely to need support at some point, it can be very difficult to know when the time has come. Complicating matters further is that our parents are not likely to tell us when things have changed. They may be afraid of losing their independence, hate the idea of being a burden, or simply be unaware of the changes in their capacity that might make change necessary.
How can you tell when your senior parent needs support? There are many warning signs that you can detect simply by observing and paying closer attention.
1. Home maintenance
When visiting, take note of the condition of your parent’s home, and whether daily care and seasonal upkeep seems to be up to date. Does the yard seem tidy and well maintained? Once you go inside, consider the interior of the home and how it looks compared to months and years past. Is it tidy and clean? Does the fridge have fresh, healthy food in it? Do the towels and linens seem fresh and clean? If there are plants indoors, have they been watered and cared for?
2. Personal appearance
Watch for changes in your parent’s appearance. Neglecting personal care can be a result of a change in physical ability, forgetfulness, vision problems, or even depression. All of these are cause for concern so watch for signs that your parent may not be able to carry out these daily tasks or are struggling to do so. Physical limitations could be an obstacle to them bathing or showering regularly, as could a fear of falling due to balance issues. Forgetfulness and confusion can prevent them from noticing or remembering daily care tasks or whether they have done them each day.
3. Physical changes
This is a big safety concern that most people know to watch for, however there are varying degrees and issues to be concerned about. Most obvious would be slips and falls, having caused injury, or suspected after the fact. Less obvious would be changes in eyesight or hearing that impair daily life. Can your parent read the newspaper, or their heating bill? Can they see well enough to write legibly? Do you find you need to repeat yourself more often, or that they become unresponsive when they are facing away or in the next room? Hearing loss is a cause for concern, as it may impair their ability to hear the telephone, doorbell, or smoke alarms and CO2 detectors
4. Confusion or forgetfulness
Is your parent struggling to remember important details? There is a difference between simple forgetfulness and confusion that should concern family members. Perhaps your senior parent has always mixed up the names of their grandchildren when recalling stories, but take careful notice when they can’t remember which day last week they went to doctor. You may have gently teased them for years for forgetting a street name or details from your childhood, but current happenings and recent conversations should be something they can manage and remember. If you find yourself repeating questions and stories, or feeling unease after conversations end, take note.
5. Personal affairs
If you are used to seeing your parent’s home well organized, with routines long in place to manage their affairs, keep an eye on changes in these areas as well. Mail that is not picked up, letters unopened, bills unpaid are all warning signs that routines are slipping or details are being missed by your parent. If you notice multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors, find out why. These can be signs your senior parent is not managing their own healthcare well, or not keeping track of important details that could affect their health and well-being.
6. Communication and socialization
You may also notice changes in their communication, as changes in their abilities hamper routines they used to follow easily. If they call you weekly, take note if the calls happen on the wrong day. If your parent has always sent out holiday cards or birthday cards but suddenly has stopped, find out why. If their interest in attending church or regular volunteer meetings, or a weekly coffee group they have always enjoyed has diminished, there may be a reason. These activities may feel too challenging to keep track of, or get ready for, or depression could be robbing them of the desire to try.
7. Family relationships and responsibility
When family members assist in the care of senior family members, at some point a tipping point will be reached. There is only so much free time and energy available in families today who are often also juggling full time jobs, busy family schedules, perhaps children or teens with busy activity schedules. When caretaking becomes too time consuming, is causing stress or strain on families, or affecting your relationship with your senior parent, it’s time to seek support.
Most of us would far rather notice the early signs and seek support as needed in stages, than wait until crisis or injury forces quick decisions. With some observation, you may be able to spot signs early to mitigate risks, improve the quality of life of your senior parent, and ease family strain by knowing when support is needed.
For more information on when to know if the time is right to seek support, take our senior care assessment.
Have questions or feedback on what you just read? Please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to chat with you.
~ Senior Homecare by Angels Calgary team