Aging is normal, and at some point, all parents will need a little help. For aging parents living alone in their home, changes in circumstance can happen slowly over time, or unexpectedly. There are various signs to look for that can help identify when aging parents need help, and how to put forth a plan to allow them to age in place in their home for as long as possible.
“You’d be surprised how long aging parents can live in their home. In our experience, it’s much longer than one would think.” -Nathan Colburn, Owner, Accessible Systems, Inc.
How to Identify the Signs
Changes in mood and/or behavior:
- Acting differently towards family members
- Seem confused about various things (time, place, purpose)
- Can’t remember or retain information well (forgetful)
- Seem down or depressed
- Reduced level of energy, often look tired
- No longer interested in hobbies or extracurricular activities
Difficulty performing daily activities:
- Waking up on time or over-sleeping
- Bathing and toileting
- Getting dressed
- Overall mobility around the home (is the home one level or multiple levels)
- Eating and dietary habits
- Caring for pets (pet doodies, walking, feeding)
Changes in physical appearance:
- Clothing is dirty or does not match
- Their hygiene and scent has changed for the worse, maybe they stopped brushing their teeth, or are showering less
- Sudden appearance of bumps, bruises, scrapes throughout the body (bandages, braces) hinting that falls have occurred
- Weight loss or even weight gain
Around the Home:
- Expired food in the refrigerator or pantry
- Overstuffed mailbox, packages at the door or a collection of solicitation fliers hung on the door
- Yard work has not been kept up
- Damage to their vehicle(s)
- Clutter and disorganization around the home
- Home does not look clean
- Broken appliances, leaky plumbing, exposed electrical
- If they have pets, do they look cared for?
Begin the Conversation
After assessing the signs and determining that your aging parents need help, initiate that conversation, and do it as soon as possible. Begin by voicing your genuine concern for their well-being. Show them that you come from the heart. Point out the obvious signs and gauge their take on those observations. If they acknowledge the negative changes in behavior, physical appearance and/or the state or quality of their home life, and they give in to being helped, then a plan can be put into motion.
“Aging parents need time to process change, and sometimes some encouragement. Talking about needed changes ahead of time will help your parents process what they need.” -Nathan Colburn, Owner, Accessible Systems, Inc.
An AARP survey revealed that 79% of older adults own their home and that three-quarters of those 50+ would like to stay in their current home for as long as possible. The point is to start planning as early as possible to allow parents to feel comfortable and prepared. There is a strong sense of confidence and peace that comes from knowing that you have a plan.
If they deny that any change has taken place and grow more irritated by the matter, then this may be a sign that a more serious condition exists, and seeking professional counseling or even medical help would probably make the most sense. Conduct a search for your local area agency on aging.
Schedule a Home Evaluation
The first step is to schedule and in-home evaluation by a certified aging in place specialist. A specialist takes the conversation deeper by helping everyone understand the true state of things and where to go from there. They will assess the need, and will help determine if aging in place in one’s home is possible and for how long.
If it is no longer viable for your parents to stay in their home, a specialist can recommend a variety of care services, can explain the pros and cons, along with the costs associated with each option.