Things to look for when visiting your aging parents
Parents are more than people to their children. They are habits, routines, and sounds that have been absorbed over many decades. We know how they operate, how they move, and what makes them happy. Aging parents challenge our observational abilities. Our minds ignore subtle developments and fill in information based on years of consistent behavior. An adult child that visits sporadically may notice changes in a parent that a regular visitor may miss. The well-being of our aging parents depends on our objectivity and attention to detail.
A home that was once spotless has become cluttered. There is very little food in the refrigerator. Pills from Tuesday are still sitting in the Tuesday box, and it is Thursday. It is not detective work. As an adult child, you are anticipating issues that may snowball. This is about preparedness. Signs of lapses or forgetfulness should not sound alarms, but they should lead to conversation. Making sure that Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies and estate planning documents have been completed becomes a priority.
Adult children may not want to be arbiters of their parents’ living arrangements, but it is a responsibility that will fall into their laps eventually. Whether it is a 4-bedroom home or a studio apartment, you want to know if your parents can manage on their own or do they need help. Look to see if laundry is being done or are the same clothes being worn over and over. If there are stairs, is your parent using them or primarily living on one floor? Has the bathtub or shower been used recently? If they own a car, are they driving regularly? You are forming a picture of an aging parent’s reality. Aging adjustments like eating less or driving less are not the type of red flags that should cause panic. When there are multiple signs of diminishment, then it is up to the adult child to begin thinking about long-term care arrangements.
Sometimes, a little extra help is all that is needed. An aide coming in 1 or 2 days a week for a few hours to do light housekeeping and prepare meals can make a real difference. Other times, the noticeable neglect in a home can be a marker of more serious issues. In those cases, it may be time for an adult child to work with the parent’s treating physician to determine if there are health concerns or possible dementia.
Visiting parents should be about being overfed and reminiscing. Walking around the house with a magnifying glass and saying “Aha!” will not play well. As adult children, it is not our job to police our parents, just look out for them. Parents will not always admit when they need help. Sometimes, the house will provide just enough clues to let us know when to step in. Talk to the professionals at Sloan and Feller today at (845) 621-8640 to schedule your free no-obligation virtual or in-office consultation.