Post-Holiday Decision-Making Time

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After spending the holidays with their families, many adults come face-to-face with the reality that their aging parents may need some help.

If you’ve just visited your parents and noticed worrisome signs of possible decline, you know how sobering it is to realize that they’re not in the same condition you remember.  If you’re a caregiver for older adults, you’ve probably witnessed adult children struggle to grasp that their parents are no longer as hale and hearty as they once were.

Some older adults may need more assistance than others. Some may need only a little help in their homes—a housekeeper or cleaner for a few hours each week.  Technology will enable some seniors to remain in their homes longer, because they can be monitored for falls and other problems.   Some may need an in-home aide on a regular basis.  Others may need to consider moving to a facility for round-the-clock care and support.

It’s simply a matter of assessing the situation to determine how much intervention is best.

Watch out for signs of dementia

Common early signs of dementia often get brushed aside, mistaken for normal age-related memory loss.

But while it’s normal to occasionally blank out on someone’s birthday or phone number, it’s not normal for a senior to have a stack of unopened bills, past-due letters or collection notices. It’s a sign they can no longer handle their finances—a warning sign that the senior should be evaluated for dementia.

Another cue that something may be wrong: inability to follow a conversation. The AARP notes some people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s start having trouble joining in a conversation or keeping up with the discussion. They may begin to use the wrong words for common objects. They often become confused about the dates or time, or even the season.

Frailty or inability to run their household

Not all seniors suffer from dementia. But they may become increasingly fragile as they age, rendering them unable to take care of many household tasks. Maybe they can’t reach taller shelves to put away dishes or linens, which stack up around the house. A once-clean house starts to look cluttered, with obstacles that pose fall hazards. Or they may lose weight because they can no longer shop for food and prepare it as easily as they once did.

So, what did you see at Christmas?

What are your options?

Adult children should discuss the situation with your parents, if they’re amenable, and possibly also bring up your concerns with their primary health care provider. Caregivers shouldvoice concerns to the senior’s family members, as well.

In-home assistance of some sort — human or technological — may be just the ticket for many seniors who aren’t suffering from dementia. It will allow them to remain in their homes and feel reasonably independent, but their families will have some peace of mind.

However, if the list of concerns is starting to lengthen, it may be time to investigate assisted living. Check your local council on aging for possibilities or recommendations, or visit the National Center for Assisted Living website for more information. 

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