Identifying when aging parents cannot safely live alone

When are our aging parents no longer able to care for themselves on their own? Breaking down the signs and what it means for the children.

It's a difficult discussion to have, especially when mom and dad are used to being independent and there are several siblings involved. But the holidays may be a good time to talk about it when the family is all together in one place.

Teri Tift, the Executive Director of Quality and Compliance at Eskaton says it's critical for adult children to check in on their aging parents frequently and in person, as a phone call may not be enough to assess their living conditions. 

Tift says it's very important to pay attention to the signs:

·         A sudden increase or decrease in weight: Check the fridge. Mom or dad may be forgetting to eat - not remembering they already ate - or they can no longer prepare healthy meals like they used to.

·         Poor hygiene: An aging parent may no longer feel motivated to bathe or get dressed for the day especially if they have lost a spouse.

·         Mom or dad may start dressing inappropriately. Things like wearing a nightgown outside in the winter or heavy coat in the summer.

·         Loss of balance – orientation – and/or more frequent falls.

·         Confusion, forgetfulness, depression and not wanting to associate with lifelong friends or family.

·         Prescriptions: Check the medicine cabinet for expired or multiple prescriptions – a sign they're no longer keeping track of their health.

·         Keeping appointments: They miss critical visits to the doctor or dentists.

·         Housekeeping: They used to keep a spotless house now food and trash is left out. Check for rotting smells in the kitchen and bathroom.

·         Overall clutter: Newspapers and bills are piling up. They won't throw anything away.

·         Finances: They lose the concept of paying bills or start sending money to strangers and falling for scams.

"They start to lose socialization and become isolated, and then they have the risk for depression," Tift says. "Assisted living can be one of the biggest lifesavers for someone like that, because all of the sudden you pull that person back to where they really enjoy being around other people and they just brighten and they get excited about being alive again."

Tift says another huge issue is the burden placed on a spouse taking care of a sick partner. There have been cases when the spouse in good health has actually died before their sick partner because the stress was too much to handle.

Having both parents move into an assisted living situation early on could lift a huge weight and add more quality years to the lives of both mom and dad.

Keep in mind everyone's financial situation is different and could impact the options available for assisted living.


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