Adult children can look for clues with their senior parents during the holidays.
This is especially important for adult children living far from their parents. But it can be critical for those close by who suddenly notice a pattern of clues that things are not as they should be.
- Having a nice hug after a time away allows you to notice any weight loss.
- Noticing the loud TV volume is a clue that hearing is failing.
- Seeing extra medication lying around or medicine bottles in disarray.
- You might notice that the Elder asks the same question several times.
- Does your parent seem oriented to their environment?
- Is there any hesitation in going to a different room – getting ready for bed, etc.?
- Are you noticing confusion about everyday things?
- Do you notice that they’ve been sleeping in their chair overnight?
- Do they know the day and time accurately?
- Is the house reasonably clean?
- Is the refrigerator filled with old food?
- Are they wearing clean clothes, and is their hygiene appropriate?
- Are they going outside for fresh air?
- Is the laundry getting done?
- Are there throw rugs that have become tripping obstacles?
It is essential to look for clues that there is an environmental challenge. Are they able to manage their household in a healthy way? If you become aware and concerned, it is time to have meaningful conversations to avoid an emergency. It can become dangerous when seniors stay in their homes too long without the help they need. A fall that keeps them on the floor too long can become deadly. Emergency call buttons and help close by becoming essential.
If you notice these things and ignore them, you can be accused of Elder abuse. If your loved one is becoming incompetent to make healthy decisions, it is up to the family to step in. This can be a very awkward and contentious time, but having good questions to ask helps. (See the list of conversation starters.)
There is nothing wrong with telling your parents that you are worried about them and want to help them find a safer place to live.
Sheila lived in her home until she was 90 years old. Her three daughters began to worry about her safety. She was a strong woman who had been widowed for 40 years, so she was self-reliant and strong-willed. It became apparent that a neighbor was taking advantage of her, asking for financial loans – which she never repaid. Her house was not as clean as usual, and the refrigerator was full of little containers of leftover food that were too old to consume. Driving was no longer a good idea, and the activities she had enjoyed in the past were not available any longer. Shiela resisted moving, but her daughters finally convinced her that they were losing sleep, thinking about her safety. After many discussions, she consented to the move. The daughters helped her downsize and give many things away to kids, grandkids, and the Salvation Army. She moved to an independent apartment with some of her favorite treasures and was safe and secure with call buttons and medical assistance available 24/7. She enjoyed having a housekeeper every other week that she had never had! Sheila lived five years of the most carefree living of her lifetime. She sang in the choir, played bridge, and ate excellent meals in the dining room. She loved having coffee with her neighbors. After all was said and done, she told all her friends it was her idea to move!
Aging in place is not the right answer as you grow older unless you are already in the right place. Finding the right location is part of the responsibility of a healthy family.
Right Place, Right Time Conversation Starters With Seniors
As you age, preparing for a fulfilling future is an essential facet of growing older. Planning for that future is critical for good outcomes. That preparation involves having candid discussions with family members and trusted advisors.
Often, those discussions can be difficult and awkward. But there are ways to make them easier and more productive.
The first rule is to start early discussing the “What Ifs of Aging.”
Waiting until adults are in their 70s-90s is a setup for poor results.
When you start these discussions about aging in your late 50s, it is just a matter of revisiting those discussions and creating a plan of action.
Conversation starters like:
- “Mom and Dad, since you are empty nesters and looking towards retirement, where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you want to live? Who will you spend your time?”
- “Do you have any friends who are downsizing? What are they telling you about it?”
- “Does ‘maintenance provided’ living sound good to you, or do you think there will come a time to give up the gardening and lawn work?”
- “What do your retirement years look like?”
- “As you move into your 80s, do you have any concerns or fears you want to share with me?”
- “Mom, if something happened to Dad, where would you want to live?” or “Dad, if something happened to Mom, where would you want to live?”
- “Do you think this house we all grew up in is the best location for you and Mom? Are you thinking about downsizing in the future”?
When parents are in their 80s and 90s, opening the door to important conversations may become more challenging. Family dynamics are all unique, and each will function differently. Realizing that no one wants to deal with an emergency, it is vital to try to broach these topics.
Some seniors become very stubborn about their wishes, and getting into an argument serves no one. Ultimately, when an adult has good cognition and decision-making capabilities, there is not much anyone can do but educate themselves.
The proverbial statement heard from many seniors is, “I’m staying in my home until the end. They can carry me out in a box!”
When it comes from your parents, it is a conversation stopper, but that doesn’t keep you from shedding light on some options and keep asking questions.
Honest and candid conversations might start with the following:
- “Dad, since I don’t live close to you, what do you want me to do if there is an emergency at home?”
- “Mom, if you needed some home health support, have you considered who that might be? Could I help you investigate that just for the future?”
- “I know you want to stay in your own home, but it puts me in an awkward spot. I’m worried about you constantly.”
- “Have you talked to your doctor about staying in your own home? Do they have any advice?”
- “Dad, are you ever lonely?”
- “You’ve got a driver’s license renewal coming up. Have you thought about what your situation would be if you can’t renew your license?”
- “Mom, with your new health diagnosis, we need to start talking about being closer to emergency help. I don’t want you home alone.”
- “Dad, I know you love playing cards, shooting pool, and visiting the guys. Would you consider living somewhere that you can do that every day?”
- “Mom and Dad, have you designated a Power of Attorney to make decisions for you if you cannot do that?”
- “Do you have a written Living Will? I can help you with getting a document to complete.”
The honest way you must deal with these conversations is to stay curious. You get to ask all the questions and give them a chance to answer or at least think about the topic. You’re not trying to persuade or argue, just talk. Keep the door open and plant seeds. That’s why starting early is so important.
Everyone needs a little help now and then, so be sure to call your friends at McCrite Plaza when the time is right. We would love to treat your family to lunch and show you around on a personal tour. No hard sell, no tricks, no gimmicks; just great information and a mighty fine time!
Call us in Briarcliff-Kansas City at (816) 888-7930 or (785) 267-2960 in Topeka, or complete the contact form below to schedule a tour and see everything available for seniors needing quality, local memory and assisted living care services.