Mom and dad are still living at home. Are they really “fine”?
How many times have you had this conversation:
“How are you and dad doing mom?”
Elderly parents will often say they are fine, when they are anything BUT fine. They don’t want to worry us or be a burden, so they don’t tell you what is really going on. Or, they don’t share the entire story.
If you are planning a visit over spring break, here are some suggestions that will help you determine if your parents need help.
Stories abound of an elder falling, breaking a bone and not being able to live on their own anymore. The truth is, long before a fall, it is little things-like not being able to open jars or cans or not being able to get in and out of the shower- that are the first signs help is needed. The first impacts nutritional health, the second impacts safety.
When you visit, the best thing you can do is observe and not completely take over chores like cooking or cleaning. Seeing for yourself that your parent struggles to open a jar, navigate stairs or hang clothes in a closet, can open the door for a conversation about getting help.
- Is mom’s once immaculate house no longer clean?
- Is the food in the refrigerator expired or filled with cookies and soda which lack the nutrition they need?
- Is dad using a chair or stool to reach everyday items?
- Are medications expired or not being refilled?
- Are there unpaid bills lying around?
- Have the bed linens been changed and is the washer and dryer being used?
- Is there damage to the car?
All of these are warning signals that help may be needed.
When you hire an agency like Springpoint at Home, they will assess your loved one for Activities of Daily Living (ADL). They are accessing the normal activities that a person does for themselves throughout the day.
- Can they go to the bathroom, dress, brush their teeth without help?
- Can they get in and out of the bath, walk with a steady gate, or go upstairs without help?
- Can they feed themselves?
Sprintpoint at Home uses these measures to determine what kind of help your loved one might benefit from.
In addition to ADL, Springpoint at Home will also access Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL), the activities and task that are needed to live independently at home. If you see your loved one struggling to prepare meals or do laundry, if they are having trouble using the telephone or taking medications, if they can no longer get to doctor’s appointments or go grocery shopping, it may be time for help.
On your visit, keep this description of ADL’s and IADL’s in mind as an assessment that you can measure each time you see them. Once they are struggling with two or more in each category, it is time to open a discussion about getting help.
- Is mom taking care of her hygiene as well as she used to?
- Do you notice any bruising or other discoloration on their bodies? This could be a sign of a fall.
- Do you notice personality changes like being withdrawn, moody or no longer participating in activities they once loved?
- Is dad becoming socially isolated – no longer going to church or dinner with friends?
- Has the burden of performing the brunt of these activities started to fall on one of your parent’s?
If you notice these changes, having a hard conversation becomes even more important. Here are ways to make it a successful conversation.
Starting a discussion with “You need to move.”, will generally put your parent on the defensive and result an unproductive conversation. Your parents know which activities they are having difficulty with carrying out. But the need for independence and not wanting to be a burden come into play.
It is better to begin these discussions using a non-threating comment, express concern and ask a question.
“I’ve noticed it’s getting harder for you to get up and down the stairs as much as you used to. I know you want to stay here. What do we need to do in this house for you to be able to live comfortably?”
“I’m concerned about your washer and dryer being in the basement. Carrying laundry up and down is hard for me, is it hard for you? What can we do to make laundry day easier for you?
“You haven’t mentioned bridge club in a while”, or “How is so and so from church?” is a great way to learn if they are feeling isolated, and if managing activities is getting harder.
Express your concern and love for your parents in this discussion. Make them part of the solution by asking what they want and need. These strategies go a long way towards a productive end result. And don’t expect to have this conversation only once. You may need to have multiple conversations to define a solution that works best for your parent, you and your entire family. If you are interested in learning more about our assessments of ADL and IADL, you can contact Springpoint at Home at 844-724-1777.