Help! I am Concerned About My Parent
In When Your Parent Becomes Your Child I discussed the issue of aging parents that concerns all of us sooner or later. But how do you know that your parent is in need of intervention? Are you really seeing a problem or are you imagining it?
You see, most of us really don't want to see that our parents are beginning to have problems. Their arms have always been strong enough to hold us, their minds have always been sharp enough to give us the answers we were looking for, and we don't want to see that those times may be coming to a close. Most of the time our parents won't admit it either, and often get angry if it is suggested to them that they may be needing more help than they used to. Since it is hard to accept, and harder still to confront, many of us leave the issue as the white elephant in the middle of the living room. We know there is a problem but noone wants to mention it.
Ideally this will be discussed before it happens. Ideally, you will talk to your parents when they are still not having problems and you will come to a place where you and they have reached decisions about what to do "just in case...".
It is hard to bring the subject up but if you are still years away from dealing with their aging problems please do broach this important issue with them. Make notes. Sign and date the notes and have them do the same. Copy the notes and put the signed and dated originals away in a safe place. It may make it easier if there is ever a problem to be able to show them what was decided, show them their signature on it, and hopefully move ahead according to that plan. If there is ever a question amoung siblings or anyone else you will have, at least, those dated papers.
If you are already concerned read on:
Signs Something Is Going On
If you are feeling concern then you probably are seeing something. How can you assess your parent's ability to be independent without dragging them in to a doctor?
Here are some signs that they may need help:
1.Mom has always been a great housekeeper but lately the house has begun to be cluttered: This can mean alot of things, maybe she has been busy doing other things,maybe she is more tired than usual, or maybe she is becoming overwhelmed with the daily chores. Keep and eye on this and look for other signs, or signs that this is getting worse.
2. Dad is letting the bills and other mail pile up: Again, they become overwhelmed by tasks that used to be easy to deal with.
3.The checking account is messed up/bills aren't being paid: This is a troubling sign that your parent my be overwhelmed and not thinking as clearly as he used to.
4.Losing weight.: This can happen especially after the death of a spouse. Shopping, preparing food and cooking just become too much trouble. My mom was eating a carrot now and then, or a piece of celery, because it was easier. Another sign of problems is no food in the fridge, or food that is spoiled or old.
5.Wearing the same clothing. Poor hygiene: They either forget to change clothes, sometimes sleeping and wearing the same things for days, or they put on the same clothes every morning.
6.Inappropriate clothing: Wearing summer clothing in winter, going out without a coat, not wearing shoes (when they normally would), leaving off articles of clothing..all these things should be checked into.
7.Signs of confusion in the kitchen: Pots that are burned on the bottoms because they have been left to boil dry, water stains and mildew under the sink and in other places because water was left on and forgotten about, dishes that are unwashed for long periods of time, food left out...these are signs that your parent is at risk.
8.Forgetting appointments: Missing doctors appointments, forgetting to take medications, missing church when they have been regular church-goers may indicate a problem. My mom forgot about my daughter's wedding, and we had to call her and then postpone the ceremony for over an hour while waiting for her to get there. We did not see it as a problem at the time but looking back it indicated what was to come.
9. Just Acting Weird: This may be a hard one for my kids. Maybe I should say, acting weirder than normal! Odd conversations, signs of paranoia, accidentally taking too much medication, phone calls at odd hours, unusual fears and nervousness, all of these things may be signs that your parent needs help.
10. Depression: Familiarize yourself with the signs of depression. Many of problems mentioned here are also synonymous with depression. A doctor can more easily assess your parent for problems and how to treat them.
If you see any of these signs in your parents discuss it with them. Share your concerns and see what they say. Try to get them in to the doctor. However, if you can't get them in to the doctor, make an appointment with him/her and discuss your concerns. The doctor can point you to various agencies that can help, and can more closely observe your parent the next time they are in for an appointment.