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Signs And Signals That Your Aging Parent Needs Help

Signs And Signals That Your Aging Parent Needs Help

By Denise Valerio

As a professional care manager and aging life care manager, one of the most common inquiries I receive are from adult children caring for their aging parent; or concerned family members who’ve noticed red flags, i.e., changes in habits or behavior that indicate some need for assistance. Often these red flags come in the form of a decline in health, sudden changes in mood or cognitive functioning.

Because millions of people are aging at home, in the majority of cases immediate family is the go-to/primary contact to assess a situation. In cases where an older person has been living independently for some time, gradual/noticeable changes cause their family member to reach out to a seasoned professional.

Some have characterized it as “dipping their toe” into the care manager’s reservoir of potential solutions to questions they’re grappling with. Conducting that initial consultation with the family helps to quash anxiety and layout realistic options.

As listed in the Population Bulletin released by the Population Reference Bureau, as of 2016, 96 percent of adults 65+ were living in private residences with 4 percent living in nursing homes. Wanting to maintain a sense of independence and high costs of assisted living communities are leading factors that determines the choice to age in place.

Solutions such as upgrading the home with provisions to ensure safety (grab bars, wheelchair ramps, flooring, smart technology) can mitigate risk in the long term. Finding affordable In-Home Care Services is another measure that will ensure medical needs are taken care of. A Life Care Manager can offer expert guidance and problem-solve with at-home caregiving; and implement the appropriate support for medical, legal, and financial needs.

In those cases where resistance is complicating a caregiver’s ability to make changes, it’s important to be aware of the factors that often tie into challenging dynamics if the parent is in denial they need monitored care.

For instance, when I take on a referral and do an initial consultation, the goal is to get a baseline for where the person is at and how they function physically and cognitively. If there are significant concerns, an extensive assessment is done to determine the best course of action. Often families are working through hesitancy about opening up a dialogue with their elder family member. It’s important to emphasize that having a support system in place (extended family, friends, professionals) is integral to the process. Moving ahead without an advocate in your corner can increase overwhelm.

Before making final decisions to enlist professional help, close monitoring and documentation of the situation will better inform that point person. Signs I tell people to watch out for include:

• Noticeable change in mood
• Change in routine
• Difficulty with basic tasks
• Falls
• Frequent trips to the ER
• Poor hygiene/lack of self-care
• Poor health
• Change in mental status (Confusion/Forgetfulness)
• Increase in solitude/reclusiveness
• Loss of appetite

In serious cases of a decline in functioning, Aging.com lists these symptoms:

• Worsening medical conditions
• Monetary/Budgeting issues
• Messy Living Space
• Depression
• Addiction

The World Health Organization reports that two million people 65 and over are living with full-blown depression—often interlinked with addiction. There are numerous resources available to those who’ve already identified symptoms that require immediate attention or intervention.

For adult children who are beginning to notice changes with their aging parent, and perhaps are stuck in the “what do we do” phase, taking that first step can seem overwhelming. Delicate conversations such as these can be wrought with uncertainty and even resentment depending on family dynamics. Making choices out of obligation or appeasement can further complicate matters down the road. (In some instances I’ve had to mediate situations that turned contentious and interfered with a clear course of action).

Change of lifestyle is stressful no matter the person’s age. By taking thoughtful measures to reassure an elder parent, these discussions become less arduous for all involved. Again, advocacy is essential to embarking on a smooth journey in this phase of life.

Some useful tips as you move forward:

• Choose a designated time to have the conversation or find ways to approach the subject and have ongoing dialogue

• Mindfulness of the parent’s concerns or fears

• Mindfulness of the caregiver’s perspectives; rationale

• Examine and evaluate available resources within the caregiver’s environment

• Discuss/evaluate all realistic options

• If necessary, enlist the help of a professional

• Identify the pros & cons

• Decipher a plan of action as a family

About Denise Valerio: Author of The Stemwinder: Stories of a Faithful Care Manager, Denise is a Licensed Social Worker and Certified Life Care Manager with over 30 years of professional experience in the care management industry, She has afforded her clients a wealth of services and support. She is a graduate of Temple University with an MSW in Social Administration and received a BA in Psychology from East Stroudsburg University.