Notice That Your Parent Is Not Quite Together?
As you sit around your family table during the holidays, you may observe that your parent is just not operating the same way they used to. Maybe they are more forgetful or rattled. You may notice mail stacking up or the house isn’t as clean as it used to be. Ask yourself, ‘Are they safe at home alone?’ You may conclude that you should offer to help but before you start to take over their affairs, consider getting the situation assessed by a professional. Ask your parents if there are some things that you could do to help. Suggest that it is alright to hire some of the tasks out now. In fact, volunteer you and your children to come over once a week to visit and help out. This not only gives the children a sense of being helpful and needed but also provides time with an older adult for some intergenerational bonding.
Fear of Losing Independence and Autonomy
Older adults are afraid of losing their independence and autonomy. They are fearful that if someone notices that they are not able to handle their own affairs, their children will take over and they will no longer have any control. Their fears are not unwarranted. Many children will come in and just take over. This makes an older adult feel helpless and unneeded. They need a sense of purpose. What can they do now with changing conditions? Sometimes, just having supports put in place can make a difference.
Lack of Visitors
Many older adults have few visitors. The people they have associated with in the past are aging too and may not drive any longer. Just one visitor a week can make a difference and give them something for which to look forward. I can remember visiting an elderly neighbor when I was a child. She would set out magazines for us to cut pictures and make collages and posters. We would have a creative afternoon with her with cookies and KoolAid. It was fun for us and she looked forward to it as well. As I have moved around the country with my family, the substitute grandparents made a big impact on my children. Older adults have much to offer and stories to tell. Teens will often bond with an older adult when they are at odds with their own parents. Set up regular visit times so they have something to look forward to doing.
If you truly want to help, ask them to make up a list of things that would be a big help to them. Then choose the tasks that you can do and make a set time when you can do them. Some tasks that may have been easy in the past are no longer easy for your parent such as cleaning out gutters; raking the lawn in the fall; trimming trees and completing some repairs. Keep them involved as much as possible and allow them to do as much as they can. Treat them with the same dignity and respect that you would want.
Fear of Driving
As adults age, they may not feel as comfortable driving in inclement weather but still may need to make that trip to the drug store or grocery store. There are many places that deliver now. Check to see what is available in their area. Offer to take them where they need to go or hire someone to do it. This may be a way to earn money for a grandson or granddaughter who has not had their license that long and needs the experience of driving. They will be less likely to drive recklessly with an older adult in the car.
Concerned But Don’t Live Close By?
If you don’t live close, hire a Geriatric Care Manager who lives in their area and knows all the resources. They will conduct an assessment and give you an accurate picture of how things are working out for your parents as well as what they will need from you. You can then decide how to proceed. You may also want to pick up a copy of the local Older Adult Resource Guide. The Area Agency on Aging or United Way will know where to find this information.