Signs it might be time for your parents to consider a seniors’ community.
“Don’t worry about us, dear, we’re doing just fine.” Reassurance from your parents may not be new, but based on the things you’ve been noticing lately? Maybe what is new is taking their word for it.
All too often, we find ourselves faced with an emergency situation, wondering if we missed a sign or a signal that things aren’t going as well as we assumed. “If only I had known,” you ruminate, “I could have done something to help.”
When it comes to the people we have watched through the years, we are inclined to believe our parents are more than capable of taking care of themselves. After all, they’ve got a lifetime of experience: raising a family, building careers, shouldering hardships, dealing with the ebbs and flows of life. Often, we trust them to open up to us if they are experiencing difficulties — but, as many parents are wont to do with the children they raised — they deflect, they downplay their situation, conscious of the fact you’re navigating your own adult life — perhaps with kids, obligations, work, and the many other priorities you juggle. Adding onto that, the potential fear and stigma many older adults have of ‘being put in a home’ may make them hesitant, or even fearful to speak up.
No matter your parent’s reassurance that all is well, there are signs to watch for that can help you better assess and assist your parents as their needs change. While one or two minor shifts in behaviour or lifestyle shouldn’t necessarily be a cause for alarm, being proactive in observing daily routines and overall wellness will help you support them to live in an environment reflective of their physical, social, and mental health needs.
United Active Living has put together a list of signs to watch for when spending time with your parents, and why observing these signs may mean it’s time to start talking with them about a transition.
- Their house is untidy or maintenance is lagging
A few stray dust bunnies aside, are there signs the bathroom isn’t as tidy as it used to be, or the garbage isn’t being taken out as frequently? Are the smoke detectors still functioning, and are all the appliances in good working order? Signs of household deterioration may mean your loved one is not able to see as well to clean properly, that mobility could be declining, or they are simply physically unable complete household tasks or maintenance as consistently.
- Everything is stacking up
Are there piles of unopened mail, unopened bags from the store, expired food, or multiples of items stashed away in storage spaces? Check that they are caught up on their bills, that they haven’t missed an important notice, or that they’re not spending needlessly, buying items they already have.
- Their space is getting smaller
When’s last time your parents ventured into their basement? The attic? If they have mobility issues, chances are, they have rooms, or even entire floors, they are no longer able to safely access, yet they are still paying to heat and maintain them. If stairs are a barrier to spaces like their bathroom or bedroom, they may not be able to access the rooms they need for adequate rest and may also have difficulty performing hygiene routines without assistance.
- Vehicle condition If you’re noticing the family vehicle has new dents and scrapes on a regular basis, it may mean your parents are having difficulties driving, and are potentially bumping into curbs or backing into things. Check vehicle maintenance records to understand if they’ve kept up with regular service, and consider working alongside your loved one with their healthcare professionals to better understand if they need an assessment to ensure they are safe in their travels.
- Change in diet
If you’ve noticed a fluctuation in your parent’s weight, check cupboards. If diet has drastically changed, it might simply be because they naturally need less food as they age, but, it may also be because they are experiencing dental or gastrointestinal pain, or they are now having difficulty preparing a meal on their own, using knives and utensils, or getting meals in and out of the oven. If you’re noticing a lot of take-out packaging or convenience food replacing their typical meals, or that your parent seems weak or lethargic, it might be a sign they need assistance with ensuring their nutritional needs are met, or require additional cues to encourage consistent eating habits.
- Change in hygiene habits
We all have a favourite sweater that seems to make its way into every wash cycle, but if you notice your parents have begun to wear dirty, tattered clothing, or that they seem unkempt, it might be because they have difficulty loading clothing into their washing machine, or that they fear slipping or falling in the bathroom.
- Over, under, or self-medicating
Many seniors — even those in great health — take medications on a daily basis, however, mixing prescriptions with over the counter medications, supplements, or alcohol, may have unexpected and dangerous side effects. Additionally, if your parent is experiencing memory loss, they may be forgetting to take their medications, taking too many, or refusing altogether. Speak with your loved one about whether they are aware of any contraindications of their medications and if unsure, work with them to consult with a doctor or pharmacist.
- Abandoning hobbies
If Mom’s prized rose garden is now a tumble of weeds, or the hum of tools in Dad’s woodshop has gone quiet, it might be because they’re no longer physically up to the task, but it also may be a sign of depression or loneliness. An online self-assessment for depression is a good start to understand the reasons your parent is no longer quite as interested in their beloved hobby.
- A shift in their mood
Have you noticed your parents aren’t as excited to go on outings, visit family, or just generally seem down? Changing circumstances like the death of a spouse or a friend, or having limited access to social settings can lead to isolation and feelings of loneliness. This can affect mental well-being, and can also putting your parents at a higher risk of serious medical issues like heart disease and accelerated cognitive or physical decline. This may be a good time to explore group activities that stimulate your loved one’s desire to socialize and discover purpose and joy in this stage of life.
- Unexplained injuries
Reduced mobility might explain a couple of groans whilst getting out of a chair, but many seniors experience bumps and bruises they can’t explain, or that they downplay in order to avoid raising alarm. However, even a mild fall can result in major injuries, especially if left untreated. If your parent’s are showing signs of mysterious injuries, despite having fall prevention features in place, you may wish to discuss and implement additional options to further reduce their risk of injury.
We’ve all had a moment or two of forgetting the grocery list, or misplacing items, but if your loved one is consistently forgetting to pay bills, turn appliances off, care for pets, put gas in the car, or misses appointments, it might be time to consider screening for symptoms of cognitive decline. This may also be an ideal time to discuss their desired next steps and even potentially begin looking at older adults communities equipped to support your loved one in their aging journey.
Your wellbeing counts too
When looking out for the well-being of parents and loved ones, all too often, adult children find themselves neglecting their own needs. If you have found yourself logging into social media to check when your parent was last online, taking large amounts of time off to arrange care or assistance for them, or are losing sleep over concern for their safety and wellbeing, finding a seniors’ community that addresses their life needs may save you needless anxiety and stress, and even help give the peace of mind needed so you can focus on your relationship — not just their care and well-being.
While one or two small changes shouldn’t cause you to raise the alarm, being aware of the subtle variations in your parents’ behaviour and home life can help you understand their risk factors and overall state of wellbeing. If you are noticing change, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from a healthcare professional. In addition, proactive planning can help ensure life decisions — such as selling a home or moving to an older adult community — can be made on your parents’ terms, rather than being forced into a decision after an emergency or major health event.
United Active Living is proud to offer care and lifestyle options that foster independence and choice for older adults while encouraging pursuit of passions and connection with friends and loved ones. To learn more about life at United, reach out to one of our Active Living Advisors today.