A visit with your senior parents this summer offers many opportunities. Hopefully, you will enjoy some relaxing and fun time together, help them out, if necessary, and even hear some family tales or wisdom that prove fascinating.
It’s also a chance, if you’ve begun to have some concerns about their aging, to check in and see how your loved ones are doing mentally, physically and emotionally. Changes are harder to observe in people we love and in those we see often; so if you live at some distance and/or see your folks occasionally, sometimes entering their home or seeing them in front of you may come as a shock. That was certainly my experience, the “wake-up call” I describe so vividly in my memoir/self-help book: “OH MY GOD! WE’RE PARENTING OUR PARENTS: How to Transform this Remarkable Challenge into a Journey of Love.”
But whether you live close by or far away, it’s important to know what signs to look for in order to plan for what’s needed and/or what may soon be needed ahead.
These are 5 important signals that should alert you there’s a possible problem:
– Their normally clean and orderly house has become dirty, cluttered; maintenance has been more than “deferred”
– Changes in their appearance – weight gain or loss, clothes unkempt; they smell badly or strangely, or seem very fragile and/or have bruises
– Unopened Bills and/or stacks of mail. Of course, this can lead to shut-off of vital utilities, as well as to the serious consequences of unpaid mortgage, rent and insurance payments.
– Loss of Mobility – For example, hearing that they’re “not going downstairs to do the laundry anymore” could set off other concerns about their limitations, or even the consequences of unclean clothes
– Changes in Mood, Memory or Behavior or their reports of the same to you or from their neighbors
If you see one or more of these signals, it may mean many different possible things, including that: your elderly parents are no longer fully capable of caring for themselves independently or of “aging in place” even with help, or that: they’d benefit more from having a social life with friends than living alone, or that: they need more care than is affordable at home.
Most important of all, seeing the signals, you need to have the courage to:
1. Read these signals
2. Recognize their significance for your senior loved ones
3. If you’ve been alerted by one or more of the signals, begin the conversation with your parents and others in the family. Discover: do they have long-term care insurance; what their desires are for staying at home or moving; what their financial plans and status is; what shape they’re in legally.
4. Consider if it would be useful to talk with your folks’ neighbors, doctors, spiritual advisors and friends about their observations of your parents — what signals might they have seen?
5. Decide if you will need to take a more active role in their lives; we call it “POParenting.” If your parents don’t yet have their own plan yet in place, you will want to seek more advice. Many types of professionals can help your family with a piece of the puzzle and knowing the signals will help you to discover what kind of help you need. We have created from a cadre of Certified POP Family Coaches to help you and your family come up with a POPlan of action and help everyone figure out how to work together to make it all a journey of love.