How to Assess Your Elderly Parent’s Needs

No matter their grown children’s age, parents may find it hard to stop seeing their children as those who need care. And not the other way around.

Grown children, too, may find it difficult to shift their perspective to one of providing care for their aging parent. Yet, such perspective shifts need not happen all at once.

Little steps here and there can help both elderly parents and their children find a way to help each other adjust to this new period of life.

Expect growing pains as you both come to terms with talking about issues that you may not have needed to discuss before. But don’t let initial awkwardness prevent the giving of support and care.

Here are some ways children of elderly parents can assess their parents’ needs and find ways to help that will ease the transition.

Visit and check in often

The first step in assessing your parents’ needs lies in frequent visitations. Consider such visits similar to taking your parents’ pulse. Parents who have remained independent for many years might balk at asking for help. In some situations, elderly parents are at the point where they should begin the process of choosing a home health aide. Yet their children remain unaware due to infrequent contact.

Make sure the lines of communication and visitation remain open. If distance prevents you from visiting monthly, get help from other family members to check in on them.

Talk with doctors, neighbors and those they come in regular contact

An additional way to monitor the health and overall capacity of your parents is to check in with those who they come in contact with. Talk with your parents’ doctors, health care providers, neighbors, or others they meet with.

Have they lost interest in socializing and are no longer in contact with those they used to spend time with? Find ways to reconnect them with an outside support group. Friendships and socializing are well-established ways to boost mental health in seniors.

Look for opportunities where they can reconnect with old friends. Or where they can be in a supportive environment for making new friends.

Observe their finances

Are bills being paid on time? Are their finances holding up?

Asking after your parents’ financial situation may be difficult for you to manage. Especially if it is not a topic you have broached before. But management of finances often takes a hit if your parent is suffering from age-related memory loss.

If you do not know how to begin this conversation, you can find an opener by bringing up a story on the news that relates to what you want to discuss. For example, scams that target senior citizens can lead to a discussion on how to spot financial scams. And what they can do if they suspect they are being scammed.

Take a look around their house

When visiting your parents, notice what chores or household duties are not being done. As parents age, they may find it increasingly difficult to attend to maintenance related tasks. Ask yourself…

  • When was the last time the lawn was mowed?
  • When was the last time the fridge was wiped down and cleaned?
  • Are there expired items in the fridge?
  • Is the house in a general state of disorder?
  • Are things no longer being put back into their places?

Depending on the answer to these and other questions, you might want to hire a home health aide to help with cleaning. A disorderly house might not immediately necessitate your parent moving into an assisted living home. Rather, take the time to figure out if he or she simply needs help with the upkeep of the house. Or if a different organization or layout plan can help ease mobility and use.

Evaluate their physical fitness and health

When a parent is no longer able to take care of their personal appearance and hygiene, this should serve as a sign for more hands-on care.

Can she still bathe herself? Does he remember to do the laundry? Can she dress herself? Does he remember to change clothes when what he is wearing gets soiled? Does she have unexplained bruises or cuts? Memory lapses often show themselves in bruises and cuts. For example, when an elderly individual falls but then forgets about how they received the bruise.

Finding ways to keep loved ones healthy for as long as possible is a worthy but challenging task. The more help they receive before such help is a necessity can protect them from rapid health decline.