You may be noticing some subtle changes while visiting your aging parents in their home, leaving you with nagging questions about whether it is time to organize some extra homecare. Although it is your responsibility as an adult child to actively monitor or manage your parents well being, it is often challenging to negotiate the conversations, decision making and choices about how to best support your parents aging independently. Some important signs to consider:
Health of caregiver. If your parents are still living in their home together, you should evaluate their health as caregivers. One parent may require more care than the other and it is important to engage in honest dialogue about whether having a parent act as the primary caregiver, is sustainable and safe.
Forgetfulness. Are your parents becoming more forgetful, leaving bills unpaid, forgetting the name of a friend, asking the same question repeatedly, leaving a pot on the stove or more importantly forgetting to take required medications? These signs may indicate a need for an evaluation and should be mentioned to their doctor.
Household cleanliness. Have you noticed a decline in the general cleanliness and organization of your parent’s home? Is the home more disorganized, with increasing amounts of clutter that could pose a tripping hazard or is the laundry piling up? These signs may indicate that your parents are less mobile, have less energy and/or ability to manage household chores or could be a sign that they need to have their vision or memory checked.
Changes in mood. For many children it can be sad to see a decline or change of personality in their aging parents. Are your parents losing interest in activities, becoming more socially isolated, displaying apathy or expressing fears about engaging in activities outside the home or driving? These kinds of emotional signs may be a natural response to the process of aging or could indicate more serious issues such as depression or dementia requiring a proper assessment by professionals.
Weight loss. If your parents are losing weight or not eating enough fresh foods this could impact their overall health. It may simply be that they have lost the energy to cook or prepare meals, but should be monitored if related to serious underlying health issues or is coupled with concerns about malnutrition or dehydration.
Poor hygiene, self-care and grooming. You may have noticed that your parents are not managing their own hygiene or wearing the same clothes everyday, which could indicate a loss of energy or memory or be related to not doing the laundry, not bathing regularly or having issues with progressive incontinence. Early signals related to self-care are important indicators that your parents could benefit from help coming into the home.
Encouraging your parents to bring care services into the home and express their wishes when they are capable will help foster better dialogue and family consensus. When facing a health crisis or when issues present themselves, having a candid, honest conversation is sometimes easier said than done, as homecare decisions are intertwined with issue of autonomy, independence, self-esteem and mortality. Here are a few tips for having a more productive conversation:
- Talk openly with your parents about what you are seeing and why you are concerned
- Ask how you can offer help
- Listen and be patient
- Give time to think and reflect, as it may take many conversations to develop a good plan
- Communicate that help can prevent more serious health outcomes or hospitalizations
- Let your parents know that homecare supports could also help you
- Get their doctor involved, as he or she may be a trusted ally
It is important to know that you may encounter resistance when broaching the topic of care, so you might begin by suggesting a trial for help with house cleaning, gardening, rides or shoveling the driveway. Early help from homecare or personal support workers could slowly introduce your parents to the benefits of caregiver support, which overtime can ease the friction of introducing more medical related home health care services. It is important to actively monitor the health and well-being of your parents, regularly confer with all caregivers and revisit any care plans seasonally, to identify new care needs and adjust homecare services accordingly.
Once you have decided to secure home care, you can now consider your options for hiring the best local caring professionals. You might find options by talking to your parent’s doctor or family health team, or through helpful online resources, such as Healthline.ca or 211.ca or Senioropolis.com. There are also a number of quality homecare agencies that can organize this care for you or you may choose to find help through new online caring marketplaces that allow you to choose your own caregiver, contract directly and offer you great savings if budget is a factor. Mutual love and trust, along with good planning and open dialogue can promote the best care outcomes for your parents.