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The Life Transition Blog

Your Aging Parents: Seven Signs They Need More Help


If you are the adult child of aging parents you have probably asked yourself how you would know if they need more help. If you live many miles away from your parents and don't see them very often you either worry about this every day, or will be in the thick of it one day when "something" happens. If that "something" hasn't hit you personally yet, then I'll bet you have friends or colleagues who are dealing with it right now, up close and personal. There's that moment when you just know that it's all about to become your responsibility.

Since dealing with a crisis is always more stressful than planning ahead, it pays to take some time to figure out if Mom or Dad can use some help, and then making sure they get it. The best way to do this is to go and see the situation yourself. You need to look for signs about what Mom or Dad are doing AND for the things they are not doing. At first, these signs might be subtle. It's easy to ignore them. Who wants to acknowledge that we're all getting older? Who wants to confront the reality that our parents aren't going to live forever? Do yourself a favor and be honest with yourself and your siblings about what you see, and then make the commitment to get involved. What are the signs that they need more help?

Health - Has your parent lost weight? When you visit, do you find an empty refrigerator and the pantry in pretty much the same state that you last saw it, with now-expired canned goods? Have there been recent emergency room visits? Is their vision failing? Are they reluctant to drive at night where they used to think nothing of it? Do you have to repeat yourself often.

Safety - Has your parent told you about falling? Leaving the tea kettle on all night? Has Mom or Dad become lost? Do you notice any unexplained bruises on their body?

Mobility - Declining mobility is fairly common in older adults. The cause for concern is when they are at the point where they can't get around well anymore, when they can't climb the stairs to their bedroom, or bend over to pick up something they have dropped.

Financial - Have you noticed a pile of unopened mail? Are bills being paid late (or never)? Are they being paid twice? Are there donations to charities you've never heard your parents talk about?

Household - Does your parent's home look different than it has in the past? Is there a lot of clutter? Does the front yard look unkempt? Is garbage piling up? Is the house being properly maintained?

Confusion or irritability - Does your Dad forget to call you every Monday evening like he has done for years? When you talk to Mom, is she more impatient than usual? Do your parents easily lose track of things or time?

Social - Has your Mom stopped participating in the knitting circle or volunteering as a reading mentor at the local school? Has Dad stopped taken care of the garden, even though that has been his favorite leisure activity as long as you can remember?

If you can say "yes" to more than two of three of these seven signs, it's a good bet that your parent needs more help. If you don't already have a family transition plan in place, now would be a good time to create one. If you do, then now is the time to start implementing what you planned for. There are many excellent resources available to you to assist you as you do.
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