June 26, 2012

There comes a time in most seniors’ lives when they can no longer live alone. If the senior in question is your aging parent, making the decision that they can no longer be safely independent without in home assistance can be tough.

Broaching the subject causes many adult children to experience anxiety. Realizing that the people who raised you can no longer take care of themselves is heart-wrenching. And, just like the rest of us, many seniors have a hard time admitting that they need help. They may even try to conceal that they’re having difficulties from you. So how can you tell if it might be time to consider in-home care for your parents? Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

■How far away do you live from your aging parents? And what issues do you feel they struggle with on a daily basis? As your parents get older, you may want to check in with them in person more often. Being close enough to check up on them and help them out with any tasks they shouldn’t do alone (such as changing light bulbs on a stepladder) will give you peace of mind. Are you close enough to provide your parents with support while they still live alone?

■How healthy are your parents? It’s obvious that major health problems can make it difficult for seniors to live on their own. But even the normal consequences of aging can make it difficult for the elderly to take care of themselves. Pay attention to your parent’s mobility. Are they able to put away the groceries, take out the trash, and easily get up and down the stairs? If not, they may need in home assistance with homemaking to help them around the house.

■Can your parents safely drive themselves? Your parents need to be both physically and mentally capable to drive safely. If they can’t get to the doctor’s and the grocery store, they will require someone else to drive to all errands and appointments. The responsibility of driving can be a big burden, and may be better left to an in-home care professional.

■Are your parents exhibiting any signs of memory disturbances? If your parents have trouble remembering simple tasks, processing information, or concentrating, they may be suffering from memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. This may become a safety problem–they could leave a pot on the lit stove overnight, or forget to eat, drink sufficient fluids, or take their medications–so it may be a reason to consider getting your parents outside assistance.

■Have you noticed your parents no longer care for their personal hygiene? When you notice that their clothes appear soiled or they don’t take an interest in their appearance, it can be a sign of depression, loss of mobility or memory disturbance. If you notice your loved ones are having issues caring for themselves, it may be time to consider in-home care to provide the assistance and reminders they need to remain independent in their own home.

Unfortunately, the aging process can raise some very difficult challenges and force us to make adjustments in our lifestyles. Older adults may be reluctant to give up the freedom and independence that comes from living alone. As adult children of aging parents, it often falls on your shoulders to help parents refocus expectations and see the value of someone providing special, personal attention for tasks like cooking and cleaning, to drive them to appointments and to help them look and feel their best. That attention can help make your loved ones’ later years a stress-free and enjoyable time.