Critter Corner: Check in on Aging Parents This Mother’s Day

Dear Oakley,

Its Mother’s Day this Sunday! Due to COVID resurging a bit and my mother living five hours away, I haven’t seen her in a long time. We miss her and asked if we can stop by and visit this weekend, and she said “yes,” as long as we all test negative for COVID. When we spoke on the phone, she didn’t sound like herself and my sister, who lives a couple hours closer to her, commented that she is concerned that she has been forgetful lately and looks very thin. She is concerned about whether she may need assistance in the home or possibly even another living arrangement. I’m thinking while I am there, I will check up on her a bit. What are some things to look for to make sure she is okay?

Thanks for your help!

Warri Daboutter

Dear Warri,

Mother’s Day and other holidays are the perfect time to check in on an aging parent to make sure things are okay. During a visit, you can check in on her overall well-being and pick up on any lifestyle or health changes that may need to be addressed.

It can be overwhelming and stressful to see an aging loved one experiencing difficulties, but planning ahead and knowing what signs to look for will help lessen the anxiety. These are some things that you can look for when visiting an aging loved one:

  • Look for changes in the home environment;
  • Open the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets to see if there are rotten leftovers or expired food;
  • Is the garbage overflowing or are there piles of dirty laundry on the floor?;
  • Is the living space clean or is there more clutter than there used to be? Mold, mildew, or insects could be a sign there’s a problem; scorched cookware could indicate that food was forgotten on the stove;
  • Looking through the mail gives you clues about whether your parents are staying on top of daily tasks. Look for unopened mail, late payment notices, unexpected or excessive charitable donations, and gifts to unknown entities are individuals;
  • Check for neglect outside the house as well.

Some signs that an individual may need care can include the following:

  • One of the most obvious signs of ill health is weight loss. Possible causes could include dementia or depression;
  • A parent may have lower energy levels or fatigue which can make it challenging to food shop and prepare meals;
  • Pay attention to their physical mobility, a reluctance to walk, changes in gait, or unsteadiness on their feet;
  • Personal hygiene or lack thereof is also an indicator. Failing to take medications regularly or misusing prescriptions is another red flag;
  • Also look for cognitive changes. If a loved one is displaying signs of forgetfulness, take note. Frequent memory lapses could indicate the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia. Confusion, getting lost while driving or walking to familiar places, and difficulty reading a book or following a conversation are also warning signs.

If you believe your mother needs assistance, these are some steps you can take:

  • Develop a plan: Plan for both the short and long term. Figure out how you can help your mother stay on top of the daily stuff. Ask loved ones what they’re willing to do to contribute to her care. Work with them on a plan.
  • Be honest with yourself: What are you prepared to do? What can other loved ones do to help? Discuss whether money is available to hire a professional.
  • Make adaptations for safety’s sake: If your mother has difficulty getting around or has compromised vision or hearing, you’ll need to consider ways to make the home less hazardous. Consider consulting a professional, such as an occupational therapist, geriatric care manager / aging lifecare specialist, who can assess the home and make recommendations. Be alert to changing needs over time.
  • Manage health care needs: Stay on top of meds and set up home health services, if needed.
  • Address social needs: Isolation and loneliness are associated with poorer health. If your mother is depressed due to loneliness and isolation, find a community arts program for seniors, invite friends and relatives to visit, or go out to eat together.
  • Manage nutrition: Encourage your loved one to maintain a balanced diet and avoid processed foods. Look into home-delivered meal programs, and be sure the person drinks plenty of fluids, as dehydration can cause fainting, headaches and many other conditions.
  • Encourage exercise: Staying mobile can help older people maintain strength, balance, energy, and brain health, among other things.

Get help if needed

Depending on the severity of your loved one’s problems, you may need a bit of assistance — or a whole lot of it. Be sure to seek out the help you need and be sure to plan in advance. Please call us at any time to make an appointment for an initial consultation.

For more ideas and suggestions, please read Evan Farr’s articles on caregiving.

Hope this helps,

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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