One of the more common dualities in life is that when we are young our parents take care of us as we grow then as they age, we start to take care of them. Of course, this is a bit of a delicate subject. Your parents were once your heroes, and all your life they have enjoyed being independent.
Yet for most of us, there comes a time when we notice Mom and/or Dad are struggling to take care of themselves. Sometimes it’s hard to know when it’s a simply a matter of them slowing down, and when it’s time to seek out more serious, professional help.
It’s estimated that roughly 70% of people over the age of 65 will need some level of assisted care. For some, this might be professionals coming into the home to help with household tasks, for others it might mean moving to an assisted living community or even full-time care in a nursing home.
What Are Some Of The Signs That It's Time For Senior Care?
Struggling with basic household tasks is usually one of the first signs that an older individual needs help. This can include things like making meals, keeping their bedroom tidy, washing laundry, and paying bills. Some of these struggles might be linked to mobility and strength issues, or they might be related to a mental health condition like the early onset of dementia.
In more advanced cases, important chores might go neglected for a significant amount of time. A sink loaded to the brim with dirty dishes, thick dust on shelves, wearing dirty clothes or piles of unwashed laundry, are all common signs of chores being neglected.
Significant weight loss and signs of a poor diet should also be taken as red flags. This could be related to problems shopping for their own groceries, as well as problems preparing their own meals. It could also be related to underlying medical conditions that they aren’t seeking care for.
Frequently, minor to modest injuries are also common with older individuals who need senior living services. This can come in a variety of forms, accidental cuts and burns or bruises from bumping into things are some minor examples. In some of these cases, the individual will try to hide the injury or spin it as a one-off incident.
Unfortunately, with most of these situations, the minor injuries, and light falls are a preamble toward something more serious. Many seniors suffer from progressive balance issues, which can also affect their coordination. As it worsens, they are increasingly likely to suffer a major fall or a serious injury.
Another very serious red flag to beware of is not being clear on their medications. Some seniors know exactly what they should take and when. Yet others start to forget which medications they need to take, or they can’t remember if they took it earlier. With some medications, it could lead to a serious overdose or recurring medical complications.
Some seniors will also tend to socially isolate. This tends to be a self-reinforcing negative cycle. They start to isolate themselves because they aren’t as active as they used to be. Yet the more they isolate, the less capable they are of being active. In many of these cases, being in a senior community, gives them the chance to get out and be more active, yet still within the same facility, and essentially close to their new “Home.”
How Do I Help My Parents See That It’s Time To Move To a Senior Care Community?
Most human beings are resistant to change, and chances are good that your parents have gotten comfortable with their situation. Many seniors who are on the verge of needing more advanced care, embrace some degree of denial. Chances are if you broach the idea as an abrupt change, they will be more resistant than if you soft-pitch it to them as a transition.
In some cases, where their ability to provide self-care is more advanced, the transition may need to be faster. In a situation where the problem is in the early stages or isolation from lack of social stimulus, you might be able to take a more gradual approach.
Ideally, you want them to feel like it is completely their choice. You don’t want your parents to feel like you are stepping in to make choices for them and rob them of the sense of independence they have enjoyed their entire lives.
Instead, think of this discussion as planting a seed. If someone they know has recently moved to an assisted living community, you might mention how much that friend enjoys it. Maybe casually leave a brochure or two behind.
One other avenue you might try is to ask around to see if there is anyone they know, who is currently in an assisted living community. You might offer to take them to visit an old friend who’s in an assisted living or retirement community. Offer up the idea as a “Visit to see an old friend” and not “Taking a tour of where I think you should be living.”
The goal is not to push too hard. If there’s a recent injury or stressful moment, it might also serve as an opportunity to have a soft conversation about it. Try to demonstrate how it could have been prevented, or how they could have gotten the help they needed if there were professional caregivers close at hand. At the same time, you don’t want to over-sell it.
It’s understandable that there will be some who will be resistant to the idea of a tour. This can also be a challenging time for you as you make the sometimes-awkward transition from being their son or daughter, to being the person who is handling their care decisions. Fortunately, Heritage locations have several resources available that can help you with this transition, as well as being able to connect with your parents. Heritage Communities even offers a book titled “In A Good Place” which can help you, as well as your aging parent to bridge the gap toward getting them the effective care they need. Once parents start to get the care they need, you can once again become just their loving son or daughter. You’ll rest easy knowing your parent(s) are enjoying the newfound company they are in, and living life to its fullest without any issues because they are being looked after 24/7.
Timing these conversations can also be a little tricky. You might have to go with your gut on picking your time. Just make sure that somewhere along the line you have clearly communicated to them how much you care, how much you worry about them, and how much more peace of mind you would have if they were somewhere that they could get adequate care.
The ideal goal is to casually get them to the point where they are willing to take a tour. Make sure they understand that it’s not a commitment, it’s just a tour. Maybe they’ll run into someone they know, or maybe they can participate in a community event.
During the tour, show interest in things that might matter to them. This could include gently pointing out how much privacy the residents have. If you are shown an empty unit, conveniently pull out a tape measure to propose a possible layout where their favorite hobby table might fit, or the bookcase to hold all their favorite books.
If they have been struggling with something like yard work at their own home, point out how nicely manicured the lawn is. If they have been eating poorly or struggling to make their own meals, point out the meal service. If they’ve been struggling to keep their clothes clean, point out the convenient laundry service. Just make sure to be casual about it.
Then after the tour, don’t push. Remember you aren’t trying to hard sell a new client on your business services. Chances are they’ll even be waiting for you to make the hard sell, and they’ll have their guard up. Keep in mind that your parents have spent their whole lives making their own choices. Give them a little bit of time to let their guard down and think about it.
Helping Them Move
A careful hand is called for when it comes time to make the move to the senior care -community. This can be a very difficult time for older individuals, as they choose the things, they want to take with them and what they want to leave behind. There are likely a lot of items that have cherished memories attached to them.
Be sensitive to the emotions they are likely going through. Be supportive if they need to talk or give them some time if they need to gather their composure.
Our Senior Living Counselors have helped many families with this process. They can be a very valuable resource to help you tackle some of these and other important questions. Many times being able to provide your loved one with a clearer picture of how their life will be improved will go a long way toward getting them to embrace the change.
A Senior Living Counselor has the training and experience to anticipate many of these questions. They can help guide you, and your parent to make it the process as seamless as possible. Feel free to reach out to us as needed.
During this emotional time, try to remain upbeat. Even if you are a little frustrated or sweaty from lugging heavy boxes, keep a smile on your face. It’s ok to be emotional about how you are feeling. You are not alone. Maybe you are going down memory lane with them on some of these items. You might even feel overwhelmed by how much leg work you are going to need to do afterward.This is completely normal, and part of the process during this change in your lives. It’s why our experienced counselors are standing by for you, and your family to talk it out, and be there for you whenever you feel it’s needed.
Always keep in mind that the goal at every step along the way is making sure that your parents get the care they need to maintain their best possible quality of life and that they’ve had the chance to emotionally come to terms with this change. Going through this process with them is a reflection of the process they went through raising you to be the loving and supportive child you have grown to be.