The holidays are a special time to gather with family. If you haven’t seen your senior parents in a while, holiday visits provide a golden opportunity to see for yourself how your parents are truly doing.
Pay attention when you visit and look for clues on this checklist that your parents may need help.
A Health and Independence Checklist
Home maintenance — Is the yard overgrown? Is the house messier than usual or have broken appliances? Check to see if the heat is on and set to a comfortable temperature. If you notice mildew or mold, strange odors, signs of bugs or vermin or spoiled food in the refrigerator, take note. Your parents may have lost their sense of taste or smell and may physically be unable to maintain the household without assistance.
Finances — If you notice piles of unopened mail or frequent bounced checks, it could be a sign of financial problems — as well as vision problems or cognitive impairment.
Memory — Are your parents asking the same questions repeatedly? Are they getting lost in familiar places and unable to follow instructions? Are they confused about time, people and places? If you answered yes and memory loss seems to be affecting your parents’ everyday lives such as driving, errands or other commitments, it’s time to get it checked out.
Safety at home — Does the home have trip hazards such as narrow stairways, rugs or uneven floors? Are there grab bars in the bathroom? Is there a working phone present? Can your parents read the directions on medication containers and explain to you how and when they take their medications or what system they use to remember? Your parents can remain independent longer if their home has a safety makeover and they are able to take medications as prescribed on their own.
Safety while driving — Ride along with your parents to note how they drive. Do they drift into other lanes or drive extremely slowly? Do they get confused while driving? Check the outside of the car for signs of dings, dents and scratches, which could indicate accidents or impairments.
Weight — If you haven’t seen your parents recently, you may be the first to notice if they have lost weight. In senior adults, weight loss can signal health problems or may relate to being physically unable to cook or shop, a loss of taste or smell or financial issues that limit grocery shopping. A medical checkup is warranted with weight loss. Health issues can spiral quickly so it’s important to find out the reason.
Mood — Do your parents seem to be in good spirits? Are they withdrawn or agitated? Extreme mood swings can be a sign of depression, dementia or other health issues, which are all common in senior adults. Note if their mood is dramatically different than what has been typical for them. If so, it’s time for them to see a medical professional.
Social interaction — Strike up a conversation to learn more about what they’ve been up to. Are they still seeing friends? Are they involved in organizations, clubs or a faith-based community? Are they still interested in their hobbies and other activities? If they are beginning to withdraw or rarely want to leave the house, or if they’ve dropped some of their favorite activities, pay attention. They could be suffering from dementia or depression or they may be experiencing physical limitations that need to be addressed.
Mobility — How are they walking? Do they seem to be hesitant to walk their usual distances or do they have trouble getting up from sitting? Are they able to get to the bathroom on their own? They may not be willing to share the difficulties they are having so watch carefully. Muscle weakness and joint pain can limit their ability to get around and put your parents at risk for a fall, which is a major cause of disability in older adults.
What You Can Do to Help
If you notice red flags, share those concerns with your parents. But remember to tread lightly because senior parents can be proud. As the adult child, you can be a partner for their needs versus a controller. Involve your parents so they still feel in control.
- Start with a doctor visit if any medical or cognitive issues are evident.
- Find one or two key needs where they could use some extra help most urgently. You can increase the level of help from there.
- Point out any safety issues and help them solve them. They may not be aware certain changes can easily be made such as a higher toilet seat or handrails in the bathroom and shower areas. A cane or walker may be in order to offer them more stability and to prevent a fall.
- Encourage regular medical checkups. Offer to schedule and go with them to the doctor visits.
- If you live out of town, ask family members or friends who live nearby if they can help with visits and house and yard work.
- Offer to help with the administrative part of paying their bills or find them a professional money manager to keep the finances in order.
- Research local agencies that can help, seek advice from your parents’ doctor and others who have experience with elder care and take time to explore aging care options.
- Don’t feel guilty if you’re not able to personally provide care. It’s just as important to be supportive and arrange the help they need.
How McKnight Place Can Help
When extra assistance with housework is no longer enough to keep your parents safe or health issues are mounting, McKnight Place can help.
We offer services for seniors who want to remain independent while receiving some extra help and care. Assistance is provided in areas such as meals, housekeeping & laundry, managing medications & doctor visits, transportation, personal care, safety & security and physical & social activities.
Residents appreciate the easy transition from home to McKnight Place. As part of our unparalleled service, a moving coordinator works with new residents to organize their move and help customize their new home’s layout, decor and finishes.
McKnight Place residents enjoy beautifully-designed, spacious suites with a bay window and upgraded finishes while the community offers choices for fun daily activities to match every interest.
In addition, the nursing staff is available 24 hours a day and a certified geriatric medical director is always on call. This means families spend less time worrying and more time enjoying special moments together. Residents expect — and receive — a higher standard in senior living at McKnight Place where they live the life they choose.
Come See For Yourself
For more information or to schedule a personal tour, please call 314-993-3333.