Guiding aging parents toward a safe home environment
Like many aging adults who face independent living challenges, Rudy and Erna feared giving up their independence and leaving a home filled with family memories. With help from their daughters, the advantages of downsizing began to outweigh the sentimental reasons to stay in their home. Eventually they agreed to move into a condominium closer to family.
This is a tough situation. In fact, three out of four families ignore the challenge of talking with aging parents about living choices. We’d like to offer some guidance in navigating a move with your aging parent(s) or loved one(s).
Signs a loved one needs help
Sometimes a serious incident occurs, but often you begin to notice subtle changes.
Here are some signs to look out for.
Housekeeping – As physical mobility declines, the everyday chores of home maintenance may become overwhelming or beyond an elder’s capabilities. You may remember your childhood home filled with family memories, happiness and a pristine atmosphere. Fast forward a few decades, that same home may show signs of disrepair and neglect.
Medications – Forgetfulness, bothersome side effects, a perception that the medicine isn’t working or the cost are reasons seniors can struggle with medications. Taking medications as prescribed is vital for your health at any age. Missed dosages – or taking too much – can lead to serious health issues, including disease advancement, weight gain or loss and mood changes to name a few.
Diet – Nutritional needs, appetite and food habits change as you age. A quick scan inside the refrigerator can tell an important story about mealtime and eating habits. Foods past their prime, outdated containers and a lack of healthy foods could signal poor nutrition or loss of interest in food.
Hygiene – Physical ailments, such as painful arthritis, poor balance, deteriorating hearing or eyesight, can cause a loved one to let go of a daily hygiene routine. When the toothbrush is buried deep in a drawer or clothes never make it to the laundry, those are signs of declining personal hygiene.
Isolation – Living alone, health problems and hearing loss among many other things can trigger isolation in seniors. Additionally, loneliness and social isolation have been linked to poor health. Pay attention to any changes in their routine and activities. A sharp decline in social interactions or engagements might be a sign of isolation.
Driving – Problems with eyesight, hearing and muscle reflexes affect senior drivers. Fresh dents and scratches on a family vehicle could be telltale signs that driving days may be coming to an end. Before having a conversation about the keys, you might consider riding along with them to make your own observations on their driving competencies.
Options for the next chapter of life
If you recognize that your loved one needs help with everyday functions, the next step is to weigh your options.
- Hire caregivers to help with cleaning, meal preparation, bathing, even companionship
- Improve safety in the home with repairs to remove obstacles, ease access, maintain cleanliness and reduce risk of falls
- Downsize space by creating living areas on one level, moving to a smaller home or choosing a retirement community
- Move to a community with access to medical care, such as assisted living or nursing home
Start a conversation
Feeling uneasy or anxious about bringing up the subject of moving is normal. Maybe you even failed on your first attempt by quickly changing the subject. Put yourself in their shoes, think about how you would feel if you were in this situation. The thought of moving may a cause a sense of loss – loss of independence, memories, control.
In preparation, practice explaining the benefits aloud – talk about living areas on one level, less maintenance, nearby medical care, etc. Print or collect informational brochures so you have visuals to review together. Also, ask a family member or close friend to join you for support.
Express your concern in a caring way, explaining that you want to help make life easier, safer and happier. Listen to their concerns, share honestly and keep communication lines open.
Moving can be a challenge at any age. For seniors, thoughtful planning and considerate communication can make the transition as smooth as possible. Family and friends play important roles in a positive transition to a new home by helping with the moving process and staying involved after the move. It can make all the difference in the next chapter of life.
Goshen Health has many care services to help you and your family during life’s transitions. Goshen Home Medical offers a wide selection of home medical equipment and supplies to meet most every need. Our trained and caring team can help you with product selection and instructions, visit GoshenHomeMedical.com or call (574) 533-0626.
Our home care team is specially trained to provide a range of medical and therapy services. Home care is for patients who are not able to leave their home routinely, so we bring our services to you. Learn more at GoshenHealth.com or call (574) 364-2700.