Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
Scroll to top

Top

Helping Our Aging Parents

Helping Our Aging Parents

Rapid advances in medicine and biology have been the biggest achievements of the past century and as a result, we are all living longer – in fact most of us will spend nearly one third of our lives as “˜senior citizens’. If you have elderly parents, chances are that you are keen to ensure they are taking care of themselves and staying healthy. However, this is difficult to monitor at the best of times and especially so from thousands of miles away.

Rapid advances in medicine and biology have been the biggest achievements of the past century and as a result, we are all living longer – in fact most of us will spend nearly one third of our lives as “˜senior citizens’. As the number of older adults grows, so does the number of adult children caring for aging parents.

If you have elderly parents, chances are that you are keen to ensure they are taking care of themselves and staying healthy. However, this is difficult to monitor at the best of times and especially so from thousands of miles away.

If your parents live overseas, use your next visit to determine their welfare and to ascertain if there is anything you can do to improve their quality of life and maintain their independence.

Before you visit, bear in mind that sometimes parents won't admit they need help and at other times they simply don’t realize that they do, therefore simply asking if they are any problems will not suffice. As adult children, you need to be aware of changes to your parents’ appearance, surroundings or behaviour, which warn that some type of change or intervention is needed.

Have your parents lost weight?

People of all ages associate being thin with being healthy, however, losing weight without meaning to is a sign that something is amiss. Weight loss could indicate one of several health problems in elderly parents, for example cancer, dementia, depression, heart failure or even malnutrition.

Keep in mind that the reason your mother or father has lost weight could be related to something other than disease – for instance, they may not have the energy needed to prepare, cook and clean up after a meal. Alternatively, they may be having difficulty with reading labels or using tools such as can openers. If you notice weight loss in one or both of your parents, suggest that they visit their doctor for a full checkup.

Is your parents’ home safe?

Have a look around your parents’ home and be aware of any signs that indicate their inability to cope. Are all the lights working? Is the garden in order or overgrown? Has the standard of housekeeping and hygiene dropped? Is their home warm or cool enough? Think also in terms of safety – for instance, do your parents have difficulty with stairs? Have they had any recent falls or injuries? Make a note of any changes to your parents’ hearing and vision, as these two senses are critical to their health and safety. If they have difficulty reading the label on prescription medicine or hearing their doctor’s advice, this could have serious consequences. If your parents are still driving and you suspect deterioration in their eyesight, this is something that needs to be top of your priority list.

Significant changes to the way your parents do things around the house can also provide clues to their mental and physical health. Scorched saucepans could mean a parent with dementia who is becoming forgetful, while neglected housework could indicate that depression is depriving your parent of the motivation needed to take care of the home. Point out these potential safety issues to your parents and together you may be able to devise a plan to fix these problems.

Are your aging parents looking after themselves?

Notice your parents’ appearance. Are their clothes clean? Are they dressing appropriately for the weather? Are they keeping up with normal personal hygiene routines such as bathing and hair brushing? Failure to keep up with daily routines could indicate health problems such as dementia or depression, although physical impairments could also be to blame.

Your parents’ mood matters – How are their spirits? Signs to look for include:

  • Reluctance to leave the house
  • Unwillingness to run usual shopping errands
  • Lack of interest in visiting friends and family
  • Sleeping for long periods
  • Indifference in their usual hobbies, clubs or activities

Persuade your parents to see their doctor and talk about their feelings if you sense that their mood has changed and is not as buoyant as it once was.

{mosbanner right}Mobility – Trouble in getting around leads to difficulties in self-care. If your parents are unsteady on their feet, they may be at risk of falling and falls can cause major injuries and even death in older adults. If there is an underlying medical condition causing their lack of mobility, do encourage them to see their doctor. The good news is that you can help your parents prevent falls by making their home safer and helping them stay active.

Some parents, not wanting to worry you, will gloss over their problems and may be reluctant to discuss them. Let them know that you care, that you are worried and that you are keen to implement solutions to their problems.

Resistance to any kind of change is common, especially among the senior population. If you experience this, consider including other people who care about your parents in the conversation, such as other relatives, close friends or even the family doctor.

In certain countries, you can also enlist the help of local agencies who will send a social worker to assess your parents’ situation. A social worker can often help an elderly parent understand the need for change even in cases where an adult child has failed.

Whoever is allocated to your parents’ case will evaluate your parents’ needs and organize services such as “˜Meals-on-wheels’, weekly home help, a grocery delivery service or will ultimately recommend that your parents move to an assisted living community.

If, together, you decide a care facility is the best option, take the time to explore the choices, talk with staff and involve any other siblings you may have.

Trying to organize care for an aging parent may seem overwhelming. Do not be shy about asking for help from your family and seek guidance from professionals. As you go about finding resources and making decisions with and for your parents, draw comfort from the fact that you are not alone; the number of middle-aged children today who have elderly parents is unprecedented.

There is no easy or right solution to the problems we face concerning aging relatives. Each situation should be treated individually, while taking into consideration the feelings, desires and needs of everyone involved. Look at what is best for all and don't let guilt guide decision making. Whenever possible, involve all family members in decision-making, especially your older parents.

About the Author: This article was written and submitted by freelance writer Dominique Lummus a British expat who has lived in Italy, the USA and the UAE and is now happily settled on Australia’s Gold Coast. Dominique regularly contributes to publications in the UAE, UK and Australia as well as online.


©Dominque Lummus