Helping our elderly parents age gracefully will be among the most difficult tasks we encounter.
When we recognize and acknowledge that aging is the process of loss; we will be more prepared and capable of identifying the signs that our loved ones need help. Sometimes the need can be very obvious when it is caused by a functional loss in their abilities to provide for their own activities of daily living (ADL), which include bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, walking, and transferring.
At other times the shift in our relationship with our parents is more gradual and our roles slowly reverse. The clues are more subtle and less obvious. The following may be signs or warnings that our parents have entered the stage of life where additional assistance is needed.
- Is hygiene appropriate such as groomed hair? Are the clothes clean and seasonally appropriate?
- Any change in activities like attendance to church, card games, book club or other social groups?
- Is there weight loss or gain?
- A change in behaviors such as saying mean and hurtful things to others? Is sarcasm confusing to them? Are they having a difficult time being empathetic?
- Are there suddenly new collections of items in the home? Is there an abundance of everyday items such as 20 bottles of laundry detergent, 15 bags of cat food or more tea than one can drink in a lifetime?
- If English isn’t the first language, are they speaking their native language more often?
- Is mail piling up? Are bills being paid late or not at all?
- Are there more burnt pans or old leftover food in the refrigerator?
- Are there unexplained bruises on the body?
Naturally the need for assistance does not magically translate to the willingness or acceptance of help. How does one maneuver through this maze? There isn’t a single simple answer. Each experience is unique and we need to approach these changes individually. One common denominator is that respecting the dignity and independence of the aging parent is critical. The ability to provide assistance for the safety and changing physical needs of our parents, while maintaining their individual dignity and independence, takes great effort and work. Gradually helping with tasks is easier for our loved ones to accept. Having a team to help support us through this stage of life is essential. William Shakespeare said “An old man is twice a child.” This quote helps me recognize that needing assistance is not a bad thing and gives permission to accept help gracefully.
Article Provided by:
Kathy Lyons, Certified Senior Advisor