Article written by Scott and Stacey Fischer
Over the last 15 years, we have heard this comment and others like it many times, especially during this season. When adult children come home for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday, they are amazed to see the decline a parent may have experienced since their last visit. It’s shocking when it happens and seems to take many families by surprise. “How did we get here?” Many are caught off guard, and often these visits trigger a movement towards senior living after the holidays.
In most cases, we work with adult children of seniors who need assisted living. We get calls from families when the adult children get our name and information from a professional or personal reference. We hear over and over again that they were not aware so much was changing so fast for their parent.
It’s common to have one parent protect or compensate for the other when both parents are living and still together. They believe this will keep the children from worrying too much or getting too involved. Parents tell us, “I didn’t want to worry,” when we get into understanding the whole story. Here are a couple of ideas or tips for adult children to think about when their parents are aging and your concerns for their health and safety are rising. Remember to find your place when you are dealing with mom and dad. Continue to ask yourself, “Am I coming from a place of care, concern, or control?”
My mom or dad does most of the talking and takes control, which is different than it was historically
When one parent does all the talking and the other isn’t up to it or doesn’t engage as he or she once did, it could be an indicator of change. When there are cognitive changes in one parent, the other will often bear the burden of becoming the primary caregiver. The statistics show in 60 percent of cases where there is a diagnosis of dementia, the caregiver will precede in death the one affected due to caregiving stress exacerbating their own health issues.
Does my mom or dad initiate conversation or do they just answer my questions?
When there is a change in cognition, the concern is they are losing the capability to act independently and decisively, this leaves them vulnerable and potential targets for exploitation. The ability or inability to initiate can be a critical indicator change is happening in their cognition, and it may be time to get more involved.
Does my mom or dad see the doctor more frequently, or do they have many different physicians?
Often, seniors have many different physicians who prescribe many medications which often interact with each other or cause unwanted side effects. Physicians don’t always collaborate with each other, and often, no one is overseeing the growing list of medications. Safely managing medications is a serious concern. As medicines increase, the opportunity for error increases dramatically. Medication management is one of the primary reasons people move into senior living.
Have there been any falls?
Has the fire department been to the home? We will ask the senior if they know the names of their first responders, and you would be surprised how often they do because they have called for assistance frequently. They have had the first responders in their homes more than they would ever tell the adult children. Again, they want to protect themselves from worrying the kids or from having “the conversation” about senior living. Falls are concerning and can threaten the health and safety of your senior loved ones. They are indeed one of the most significant concerns for our aging population. Falling should be taken seriously.
Do mom and dad depend heavily on the neighbors?
Many seniors help and support each other, particularly those who have lived in neighborhoods together or apartment complexes for years. However, we hear all the time from seniors that their neighbor checks on them or helps with driving, meals, appointments, etc. These same seniors have their own issues. Many overextend themselves, and problems can compound when they attempt to help their friend. Many times, people miss out on the support, diagnosis, and care they need because they refuse to give up their independence and believe their friends and neighbors are helping them when they could very well be doing just the opposite. The same can occur if mom and dad are still driving and traveling unaccompanied.
Are you coming from a place of compassion, concern, or control?
This is an essential question for many adult children and caregivers, neighbors, and friends should keep in mind. Ensure you know your approach and realize your mom and dad always have a say (if capable) in decisions and the transition they will experience. In one instance, a senior couple’s cleaning lady was giving care advice and bringing them supplements. The family was lucky to intervene; they prevented misdiagnosis and over-the-counter products that were not advisable with their currently prescribed medications.