Winter often serves as a wake-up call for adult children who realize their parent isn’t doing too well living alone. Although it can be tough facing the reality of elderly relatives more frail or forgetful than the last time you visited, it’s a great opportunity to check on how they are really doing and to make a change for the better. As you’re visiting with Mom or Dad this holiday season, use these tools to look for warning signs that they may be ready for a more supportive living option.
- Give a Hug. Clues aren’t always visible from a distance. You might learn more from a hug. Do you notice obvious weight loss or gain, increased frailty or overall obvious changes in appearance?
- Observe Her Social Life. Social circles can shrink with age, which can have adverse health and safety implications. Look for signs of isolation, which can include days spent without leaving the house, less talk about interests or hobbies, and lack of friends to socialize with.
- Open the Medicine Cabinet. Individuals over 65 take an average of 14 prescriptions a year and those over 80 are prescribed, on average, 19 different medications yearly. That can be a lot to keep track of! Is Mom taking her medications as prescribed? Look for expired, discontinued and duplicate bottles.
- Check the Mail. The mail offers clues to how your parent is managing money, a common warning sign of cognitive trouble. Look for snow drifts of mail, unopened or unpaid bills, letters from banks or creditors, and thank-you messages from charities.
- Inspect the Kitchen. Because people spend much time here, this room is especially revealing. Look for expired perishables, multiples of the same item, a freezer full of frozen dinners, broken appliances, or signs of past fire.
Another simple way to check on your senior loved ones’ well-being is to just take a walk around the house — you may be surprised by what you see. Keep an eye out for things like excessive clutter, lax housekeeping, grimy bathrooms, and signs of yard or home maintenance neglect. When talking to your parent, ask about vendors and services. Managing a variety of vendors can become uncomfortable or stressful. Look for common trouble spots like phone, cable or internet problems, plumbing or electrical issues, and setting up plowing or shoveling service for winter.
If you have realized that Mom or Dad could use a more supportive living situation, here are some helpful tools to figure out next steps: