As you get older, you start to notice that your parents are aging too. At some point you may have to make the difficult transition from child to caregiver. Your parents have been healthy and independent all of your life, so pay attention to when things start to change. Observation can be your best tool for knowing when that transition has begun.
Make sure your parents are taking care of themselves at home. Are they grooming themselves as usual? Is their hygiene the same? Are they maintaining their surroundings, such as keeping a clean house, paying bills, and keeping everyday supplies in the house?
Be aware of your parents’ safety as well. When you visit them, see if scissors and knives are put away properly, and cleaning products are not left out. Make sure they have clear walkways in each room and in the hallways, and watch to see if they are having any issues moving around. Also, if they drive, ride with them on occasion so you can get a sense of their driving skills.
Something else to be mindful of is their weight. Older people tend to get smaller naturally, but that happens gradually. If you notice rapid weight loss that could be a sign they are not eating properly. Loss of taste or smell could make even their favorite foods not smell or taste like they remember, which may cause them not to eat. Make sure they have food, and the food they have is not past its expiration date. If your parents are still cooking, be mindful of burned pots because that is a sign of a diminished ability to tell when food is done.
Another area to watch with aging parents is their mood. A drastically different mood from what you are accustomed to could be a sign of depression or other health issues. Make sure they are still connecting with friends and family, maintaining interest in hobbies and daily activities, and are still involved in their usual organizations and clubs.
Be mindful also of their memory. Occasional name-forgetting is normal – even from some younger adults. But take note of the frequency at which people, dates, and places slip your parents’ minds. And when reminding them of a forgotten fact, don’t make them feel bad for forgetting.
Independence is something we strive for growing up. As immensely difficult as it may be to watch your parents’ independence slip away, imagine how painful and embarrassing it must be to for them to have it taken away from them by age. Check up on them in ways that won’t further rob them of their dignity. Be discreet. Also, enlist your siblings to make the observations as well. If no siblings are available, employ your children to assist in looking after grandma and grandpa.
For more information, visit MayoClinic.com, WebMD.com, DiscoveryHealth.com, or search for aging parent tips online.