As your parents age, some physical and psychological health issues typically occur. For example, hearing and vision may start to deteriorate, and various chronic diseases are more frequent among elderly (i.e., heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and arthritis). Indeed, 9 out of 10 older adults (65 yrs+) have a chronic disease, and 7 out of 10 have 2 or more chronic diseases!
The thing to think about is, what kind of assistance might they need as their health deteriorates in order to live independently and safely?
As people are living longer and longer, concerns around deteriorating cognitive functioning and memory is a major worry among older adults. Indeed, as people reach very old age (90 yrs+), approximately one third have signs of dementia. However, it is important to keep in mind that the majority of older adults continue to experience 'normal' cognitive problems as they age, including mild memory deficits which do not interfere with daily functioning.
The thing to think about is the aging parent who is demonstrating notable memory problems, including getting lost in places that are familiar and/or unable to remember daily routines. Changes in mood (e.g., depression, irritability) may also be noted. In these situations you need to consider a support system that ensures their safety.
As your parents age, you may find that the house and yard is starting to become increasingly poorly maintained. This can be due to numerous issues, including lack of energy and initiative, deteriorating vision, or painful joints when moving due to arthritis. More concerning explanations may include deteriorating cognitive functioning.
You may need to consider stepping in to help out with house and yard work as a deteriorating environment can be detrimental to your parent's overall health and general safety.
Have you found that you've started seeing some dents or scrapes on your parent's car that are new? Does your parent seem either unaware or defensive about the damage to the car? This kind of scenario poses a very difficult dilemma for you the adult child because it may mean that their ability to drive is unsafe.
You will want to think about ways of communicating your concerns to your parent about their driving ability in order to prevent a future car accident. Also, start to think about alternative transportation opportunities for your parent.
Isolation and feelings of loneliness are often hidden and unspoken about in daily conversation in society in general. This is especially true among the elderly as they experience multiple losses, including friends, responsibilities, and physical functioning. Have you found that your parent is showing signs of sadness / depression, loss of interest / routine, lack of appetite, unhealthy drinking habits? These could ultimately be signs of isolation. In most dire situations, concerns around suicide must be considered. Indeed, suicide is highest among men (85 yrs+).
You will want to think about ways of increasing their socialization and sense of worth.
Are your parents financially stable, or are they one health related crisis or one housing catastrophe away from impoverishment? In either case, it is critical to get a handle on your parent's finances so that you'll able to better help prepare for future costs of services needed to ensure your parent can remain in their own home safely and comfortably.
Another area of critical concern regarding your parent's finances is financial fraud and abuse often targeting older adults. If you are concerned that your parent may be susceptible, then it is critical to have some oversight over your parent's finances.
Ultimately, it may be time to step in and start a conversation about their financial situation with the understanding that you are looking out for their well-being.
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