When’s the Right Time to Step In With Elderly Parents?
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Nearly half of all senior citizens need help with routine daily activities, but many won’t admit it. If you have a feeling it may be time to step in and offer your parents assistance, that initial conversation and deciding on the necessary level of care for aging parent needs can be intimidating. However, it might be necessary in order to help them live a fulfilling life as they move into this next phase.
Read on to learn the signs that your parents might need help, steps to take, and tips to keep the conversation positive and productive.
- There are telltale signs to look out for when it comes to offering eldercare assistance to your aging loved ones. These include making poor financial decisions, severe changes in mood, lack of personal or household hygiene, and deteriorating health.
- If you think your parents are in need of help, breach the topic with a gentle conversation. Make a concrete plan in terms of medical care, legal services, and finances.
- If communicating with your parents is difficult, take a step back and breathe. Stay positive, listen to what they have to say, and don’t neglect self-care.
Signs Your Elderly Parents Might Need Help
As your parents age, you might notice struggling with certain tasks that used to be easy for them. However, taking the step to help them with those parts of their lives can be daunting, and you may feel pressure to time your interference delicately in order to preserve their sense of independence.
If you’re unsure whether it’s time to step in and help your parents, there are some telltale signs and red flags to look out for.
First, if your parents are making poor financial decisions, it might be a sign that they need your help. Whether it’s due to cognitive decline or illness or the result of financial abuse or fraud, many seniors have trouble making wise decisions when it comes to money. As of 2016, 60% of American households headed by someone 65 or older are in debt, and that number is on the rise. If you notice your parents are struggling to make ends meet, that might be your cue to intervene.
Severe mood changes are another sign that your parents need help. Whether these mood swings are simply the result of everyday stress or are tied to a physical or mental health condition, changes in mood are crucial to look out for.
In older adults, mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder are more likely to have negative outcomes due to increased suicide risk and ultimate mortality, as well as due to medical comorbidities and cognitive deficits. Changes in mood may also indicate Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or Parkinson’s disease.
Another telltale sign is lack of personal or household hygiene. If you’ve noticed your parents struggle with daily personal hygiene tasks like showering or brushing their teeth (or forget them altogether as a result of memory loss), it may be time for you to step in.
Your aging parents may be overwhelmed with maintaining a clean home, or may not be able to care for their appearance the same way they used to.
If you notice your parents are struggling to take their medications properly, they may need your help. Do your best to keep tabs with your parents on the medications they’re taking on a daily basis and ensure they’re keeping up with the proper instructions.
Finally, deteriorating health is the clearest sign that your parents may need you to intervene. If your parent has recently been diagnosed with a physical or cognitive impairment (or is simply not as active or mentally sharp as they used to be–general forgetfulness or weight loss or gain may be first clues), it’s time to step in and offer senior care.
If your parents are dealing with the mental and financial strain of health issues as well as suffering from their symptoms, they’ll appreciate you stepping in to take care of household tasks.
Steps to Take
If you’re considering offering your elderly parents help – whether it be that of yourself or a professional aide or caregiver–the initial conversation can be daunting. But communicating respect and a desire to alleviate stress, and taking the process step by step, will make all the difference.
To start, simply talk to your parent(s). Do your best to understand their perspective and explain where you’re coming from. Listen as much as you speak. Stay positive, provide options, and allow them the autonomy to make their own decisions. Moreover, start small–suggest minor adjustments before drastic lifestyle changes.
Get information from a health care provider, and consider a medical evaluation (ask to accompany your parents to their next doctor’s appointments). If you’ve noticed your parents’ health declining, talk to their doctor about their symptoms and get advice on what kind of assistance would be most beneficial.
Discuss legal and financial plans for the future with your parents. Offer your help or that of a professional, and emphasize the importance of having a written personal care agreement moving forward.
Discuss and create said plan, both in terms of healthcare, legal services (i.e. power of attorney), and financial services (i.e. a will kit), as well as a plan for the type of assistance you’ll provide for your parents as a potential family caregiver.
Having a written agreement will make you and your parents more comfortable and protect against disagreements down the line.
Other Tips for Communicating With Your Elderly Parents
Communicating with elderly parents can be difficult for adult children. Older people are often reluctant to receive help, so it’s important that you approach the subject gently. Below are some tips for communicating with aging parents.
- Try to listen and ask questions about care needs. Take in your parents’ point of view and make efforts to accommodate them. Keep in mind their concerns as they move into this new phase of their life.
- Be open to suggestions, and pick your battles when it comes to the small stuff. Offer your parents options to choose from (i.e. home care vs. long-term care at a nursing home), and allow them to propose options of their own. Your parents might not be willing to accept the plan you’ve prepared, but perhaps they have a similar idea that could be a worthy compromise.
- Be patient (these things can take time!). If your first conversation with your parents doesn’t go as planned, don’t worry. It might just take some time for them to come around. This transition can be emotional and your parents might need time to process.
- Take time and space for yourself. Remember that you’re human, and that your parents are competent adults with their own autonomy. Caring for an elderly family member’s well-being can be stressful and can bring up a lot of emotions, so it’s imperative to make time for self-care in order to be the best support system you can be. Consider researching support groups in your area.