Living away from your family can make caring for aging parents very difficult. How do you know what is going on with your parents? Phone calls and widely spaced visits may not reveal the health needs of aging parents. When you do visit, pay close attention to the physical appearance of your parents and their home using this checklist:
- Is Mom not keeping house the way she always did?
- Has their physical appearance changed and not in a good way?
- What's in the refrigerator and the cupboards?
- Look at the dates on the prescription bottles, have they been filled lately?
- Does the date on the bottle match the amount of pills in the bottle? (i.e., make sure the medication is being taken. Some seniors do not take the correct dosage to save money)
- Is the dirty laundry piled up?
- Look for signs that their eyesight may be failing.
- Is the TV louder than when you last visited?
- Is one parent taking care of the other more now than before?
- How do they get to doctor's appointments?
- Let one of your parents drive you to the store. Should they still be driving?
- Are unpaid bills laying around?
- Are they still attending church and other social functions?
- Are the smoke detectors working?
Before you leave, talk to your parents and get the following information:
- Doctors' names and telephone numbers
- Medication list
- Pharmacy they use (the pharmacy may have a delivery service)
- Grocery store they use (may also deliver)
- Neighbor's telephone number(s)
- Church they attend
- Area Agency on Aging telephone number
Paying attention to your parents' daily routine will give you insight to what is really going on with them. Take the time to look and listen when you are home for a visit.
Develop a Support System
Getting the entire family involved is important. This is not always easy and you may not all agree on what is best for your parents, but it has to be done. If you cannot all meet in person, email or try a conference call. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Do not forget to let your parents be part of this process. They will know which neighbors they can depend on and how much help they need right now.
Be sensitive to what your parents want, especially when it comes to bringing strangers into their home. Having someone help with the cleaning makes perfect sense to you, but this is a stranger in their home. Giving up independence is also scary. Let your parents remain independent as long as possible. Helping them decide when they need help is the hard part.