How to know when the time is right
By Susan Baldani
As our parents age, it often becomes clear that instead of them taking care of us, it’s our turn to take care of them. We want to do our best to ensure that in their senior years they are as happy, healthy, comfortable and safe as can be. Unfortunately, this can lead to some uncomfortable conversations and decisions, for both the parents and their adult children.
How do we help them decide that it may be time to leave their homes and move into a senior living facility, a place where their needs can be better monitored and taken care of? Here are some questions to ask and some signs to look for to assist in making that decision.
Is the parent able to remember to lock doors, turn off appliances, such as irons, stoves and ovens? Is the home easily traversed? For example, are there a lot of stairs leading to bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry areas? Also, are they paying their bills on time to make sure their utilities stay on? Answering no to any of these questions can lead to major safety issues.
Increasing physical and medical needs:
Does the parent need help getting out of bed, using the restroom, or bathing? This can lead to both mental and physical stress for the caregiver. Lifting and supporting someone else’s weight can lead to multiple injuries for the caregiver.
Is the parent eating nutritious meals and drinking enough fluids? Are they able to hear smoke alarms or see well enough to make sure they’re taking the right medicine? Are their clothes clean and are they keeping up with grooming? If not, then extra assistance is needed.
Are there worsening medical issues where advanced knowledge is required? For example, does the parent have a lot of medicines to take with complicated time schedules?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Sundowning refers to a state of confusion occurring in the late afternoon and spanning into the night.” This can be difficult to handle in the home environment as it’s often accompanied by wandering, which can lead to falls, injuries and even death, and can prevent caregivers from getting the rest that they need. Aggression is another symptom of sundowning which can pose a danger not only for the senior, but for the caretaker as well.
Seniors often notice as well when they’re having a hard time living on their own, but may not want to discuss it for fear of losing their sense of independence. They may also keep quiet because they don’t want to burden their children with their own issues. It’s important to let mom and dad know that you want to be told of any problems they may be experiencing, whether emotionally or physically.
These discussions should be ongoing, since issues can develop quickly. Just because mom or dad is fine one day doesn’t mean that he or she will be okay six months later. If you don’t have an open or positive relationship with your parent, you can have someone else step in as an adviser.
It’s imperative that all the adult children in the family be on the same page, so keep the lines of communication open throughout the family. A sibling who doesn’t see the parent on a day-to-day basis may not realize the extent of any problems.
Depending on the level of care needed, seniors can still enjoy a fair amount of autonomy in an assisted care facility. According to the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), “Some residences provide only meals, basic housekeeping, and help with the activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and grooming. Others go beyond these services and furnish transportation and certain health services.”
Instead of treating the transition to a senior living facility as a disadvantage, help your parent see it as an opportunity to meet others and have access to new things. With the right planning, moving into an assisted living center can be a smooth and positive experience. And you and your parent will have the peace of mind knowing that they are being cared for in the right environment.
Written for Viva Tysons in Alexandria, VA