There is a time when we will need to become more involved in our parent’s lives, to assist them in either a minor or major way. It is the start of a journey called eldercare. Sometimes, we leap from the high dive into the deep end and sometimes we just put a toe into the pool by the steps. Each personal journey is different.
But, how do we tell what they need help with and when we need to step in?
Well, like your second grade teacher always told you, you have to just pay attention.
I know this sounds vague and I know you’d rather do something else – but staying on top of this issue will reap enormous benefits in the long run (maybe even the short run).
You see – eldercare is punctuated by emergencies. Your role as caretaker, caregiver or person responsible for directing their care can start at any time as your parents age – but it usually starts with an emergency. When this happens, you don’t have as many options as you would if you had started evaluating their situation ahead of the emergency. You will be shorter on – 1) time, 2) good choices, and 3) possibly finances – if you wait until the “EMERGENCY” to see that they need your help.
Well, how do you get started ahead of the Emergency?
First, you open your eyes in a way that you haven’t before and look around at your parents’ behavior, their residence, their finances and their responses. You EVALUATE:
Behavior – How are they acting when you come by? Are they bluffing on their competency in any areas? Are they making sound decisions? Are they eating regularly, are they depressed, are they behaving like the folks you have always known?
Residence – Are they continuing to maintain their residence or hiring someone to help? Are they able to go up/down stairs safely? Can they get in/out of the tub or shower safely? Are they able to cook and clean? Has their use of their residence shrunk to include just the bedroom, bath and living room?
Finances – Are they paying their bills on time? Are they aware of their current financial status – money in the bank, investments, asset management? Can they decline all the “offers” that seniors are bombarded with? Have they let any insurance policies lapse?
Responses – Do they respond to situations with appropriate reactions? Can they navigate their medical situations by themselves? Are they making good choices about risks, like driving, and large or long-term purchases? Do they ask for help when they need it (Now, I really doubt this!)?
You don’t have to be obvious and you don’t have to be invasive. Just observe, ask some questions, accompany them when they go to the doctor or when they are driving, look over their shoulder when they are paying bills – and pay attention to what you see. Most of us have blinders on when it comes to our parents. They are, after all, the folks who taught us how to do all these things! But, at some point, they will likely need your help and you both will benefit if you are able to identify when that is and what they need help with – without an EMERGENCY to get you started.