Signs that an Aging Parent Needs Help

How do you know when it’s time to have “the conversation” with your aging parents? What are the warning signs that suggest it’s time to move your mother or father into a nursing home or other care facility where they are safe, secure, and can be cared for around-the-clock? What about home care; it can be costly, but it’s also necessary when the time is right.

Signs That a Parent Needs Help

Small accidents and mishaps are common. It’s easy to exaggerate these things when they happen to your parents, but it’s important to put everything into perspective. Just because they bruised themselves during a fall or broke a toe kicking a cabinet doesn’t mean they need help.

Think how many times you’ve had mishaps like this throughout your life. Does that mean you need to be in a home or require home care services? Of course not.

It becomes a concern, however, when these instances are frequent, severe, or combined with some of these other warning signs:

Mobility Problems

Does your parent struggle to get out of bed or climb out of a chair? Do they have issues navigating around the house and climbing the stairs? 

Grab bars, stairlifts, lift chairs, and adjustable beds can help, but if they are still having problems, they may need the extra help provided by a care expert.

Memory Problems

Forgetfulness may seem like a minor issue to begin with, but if it gets worse it can impact your parent’s quality of life and even jeopardize their health.

They may forget to eat, drink, or take their medication. If they suffer regular bouts of memory loss, they may even take multiple doses of potentially harmful medications, putting them at risk of overdose.

If they are missing important appointments, forgetting to take medications, repeating themselves, and accumulating stacks of unpaid bills, it could be a sign that your aging parent needs help.

Poor Personal Hygiene and Living Conditions

If you notice signs such as poor personal hygiene, a loss of interest in personal care, and a messy, dirty, foul-smelling home, it may be that your parent lacks the physical means or mental strength to care for themselves and their home.

A dirty home and poor personal hygiene can lead to numerous health conditions, while also creating trip hazards and mold growths.

Weight Loss

Parents who live alone and are losing the ability to care for themselves may present with signs of weight loss, constipation, and other dietary problems resulting from a lack of home-cooked healthy food. They may be relying on frozen meals or skipping meals altogether, for example.

On its own, this is not a huge issue, as it can be remedied by some simple meal delivery services, but in combination with some of the other warning signs on this list, it suggests that your parent has lost the ability to fulfill their basic needs.

Nursing Home/Assisted Living or Home Care?

The first, and perhaps the most important consideration, is whether or not an assisted living facility or nursing home would actually benefit your parent or loved one. Are you thinking about their best interests and long-term safety, or do you just want to get your hands on your parents’ home?

In many instances, home care is sufficient and should be your first move. If they live alone and have a serious mobility problem or a condition like Alzheimer’s disease, you should consider a nursing home. More often than not, though, an elderly parent can get the help they need with home care visits.

Nursing Homes and Home Health Services During COVID-19

The Coronavirus pandemic has made children and parents very wary of nursing homes and home care services. Nursing homes were some of the hardest hit places during the pandemic, highlighting a problem that few could have predicted but that many are now concerned about.

As for home care service providers, people are more reluctant to welcome outsiders into their home, especially when those outsiders are touching everything and have been in contact with many other people.

However, it’s important to place these issues in context. On the one hand, your risk of contracting the disease does increase and, for older people with preexisting medical conditions, those risks can be life-threatening. However, the pandemic won’t be around forever, it may over by the time you read this, and the risks associated with allowing older adults to live alone when they are struggling to fulfill basic needs are just as concerning.

Nursing homes and home care services go to great lengths to protect their staff and their patients, and their efforts have increased substantially in 2020. With the right equipment and precautions, the risks are not as great as you may think.

Nursing Homes: Approaching the Question

Put yourself in your parent’s shoes and think about how scary it must be when your family members are trying to move you out of your family home and force you to live with other adults in a care facility. To you, it’s a sensible decision made in consideration of their well-being, but to them it’s a terrifying prospect that forces them to relinquish the last of their independence.

When approaching the subject of senior care, it’s important not to make decisions for them. Don’t give them ultimatums. Talk about the red flags you’ve noticed and the issues they’ve caused and remind them that things cannot continue in the same manner. 

Discuss long-term care options and highlight the many benefits that an assisted living community or nursing home can provide. Treat it more like a new beginning, an opportunity, and something that can provide them with safety and security, while allowing them to live freely.

Make it clear that nursing homes have changed. They are not stuffy, depressing facilities fitted with drab carpets and littered with miserable patients. It’s not just about being really medicated and playing bingo all day. They can also provide:

  • Outdoor recreation areas
  • Regular games and movies
  • A choice of foods and drinks
  • Companionship and a sense of community
  • Personal hygiene assistance
  • Medications and other healthcare

Assisted living facilities can provide many of the same services without taking the patient’s independence and should also be discussed.

If your parent insists that it’s not the right time, respect their wishes and look into home care services instead. When the home care provider recommends an assisted living facility or nursing home and can no longer provide the level of care required, you can be a little firmer and more insistent in your discussions.