You’ve been lucky. Your parents are still alive and doing reasonably well in their late 70s. But your mom fell yesterday and couldn’t get up without help from the neighbors. You and your dad are worried that she might really hurt herself if she falls again. Is it time to move both of them into an assisted living facility so that someone can keep a closer eye on them?
An assisted care facility can offer more than just caretaking. It can bring the elderly into a community with opportunities to make friends, to get back the social life they’ve lost.
How can you tell that your mom or dad needs help? Here are telltale signs that indicate increasing disability.
1. Poor hygiene
- When your parents stop bathing regularly, when it’s too much trouble to take a shower or shave or brush teeth, you’ll be able to tell. From the dirty clothes and the body odor and the disheveled appearance, you can see that your mom has stopped caring about how she looks.
- The house starts to look shabby. Dust accumulates. Dishes stack up in the sink. Beds are unmade. There is an odor in the air. Cat litter isn’t changed.
- The yard starts to look unkempt. No one is picking up after the dogs.
- The garbage cans, both inside and outside the house, are overflowing.
2. Confusion and forgetfulness
- You might notice that pots have scorch marks. Someone forgot that there was a pot on the stove.
- When you stop by to see them, the mail contains bills labelled ‘overdue’.
- Dad can’t remember if he took his morning meds.
- In the evenings, you notice that it is more difficult to explain their ideas or follow instructions.
- You get a frantic phone call from your mom. She can’t find her car at the grocery store and thinks it’s been stolen. When you get there, you find the car and realize that she just came out a different door.
3. Weight loss
- Your mom (or your dad) is afraid to use the stove or oven because of forgetfulness.
- They’re eating whatever is still in the kitchen.
- You find a freezer full of frozen prepared meals, usually the cheapest kinds.
- The garbage is full of McDonald’s bags and wrappers.
4. Weakness and falls
- Lack of exercise leads to muscle atrophy which leads to weakness.
- You notice that your dad needs to use his hands to stand up from a chair.
- Mom is walking, holding on to furniture to keep her balance.
- You notice bruises on your parents that could be from falls since you don’t think there is any elder abuse going on.
- Mom breaks her wrist in a fall.
5. Depression, aggression, and isolation
- Your parents used to enjoy an active social life. But many of their friends have died or are incapable of getting out.
- Now they sit and watch television much of the day.
- Your father has outbursts of temper. He has broken things. You think your mom is afraid of him.
- Neither of them smiles much or laughs any more.
Assisted living can have different stages. Your dad might be independent while your mom requires someone to check on her throughout the day, taking some of the caregiver responsibilities from your dad’s shoulders. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your parents’ needs and find a safer, happier place for them to live.