When Does Helping a Parent Best Begin?

The month of love is here. Valentine’s Day changes for us over the years. Today it may be the celebration of a spouse who is now an angel. Everything changes and that’s where it’s important for family-parents, adult children, etc. to watch over their loved ones. As one changes physically and mentally they may withdraw or change routines, habits and the activities they enjoy.

We are now in the mid-latter winter months; is mom or dad getting out of the house? If they are connected with a church, are they continuing to go? Do they still meet their friends out for lunch? Do they get up, dressed and ready for each day? Is their refrigerator stocked up? Is the food in the refrigerator out dated? Are they maintaining weight? Are they walking or getting out to exercise. Do they attend family events and/or grandkids programs? Is their home becoming unkempt? Is their mail stacking up? Are bills being paid? Does there seem to be an accumulation of papers and “stuff” used a lot in a 3 foot radius of their main chair? Have they fallen? Are they managing their medications? Ask to see how they manage these – do they use a pill box? Medication alarms? Are they asking their doctor questions? Are your parents clear on their plan of care from their doctor?

In today’s busy society, it’s tough for adult children to reach out to help their parents when their parents are at the far-end of middle age—their 50s and early 60s. As time passes a parent may require a little more assistance each year. Often this decline happens so gradually it’s hard to know when someone needs help.

A good way to be involved in your parent’s safety is to offer to help before they need help. Reach out to parents in their 50s and 60s is to help them with seasonal projects. For example, a daughter might help her mother plant her mom’s favorite flowers. A son might ask his teenager to help his grandfather mow the lawn or hold a ladder while his grandfather climbs (better yet grandfather holds the ladder). A daughter or granddaughter may help preparing something special for a party or “get together”.

Providing early consistent, but not overwhelming, assistance will pay large dividends in the future. Most likely, Dad and Mom will feel secure if help is provided in gradual, small and consistent steps. When the time comes for the family to begin working through issues that arise as parents age into their late 60s, 70s or 80s, the parents may find accepting help a bit easier. The greatest value is that family will become closer, and the grandkids will be treated to the wisdom and history of their grandparents.

It’s still ok if you have not started early. You and your children’s visits to you parents can be very special for the grandparents. It’s best not to come into mom and dad’s house offering to change their world. Perhaps bringing in a lunch and offering to do a special chore with their help might start a trend of helping. Just be consistent and also invite them out to events.

If sudden and immediate assistance is needed; hospital case managers will become the first for guidance. Call upon their primary care doctor. Private companies offer care management. Even some insurance companies may provide assistance for such things as transportation and meals for a homebound person. Your issues at this point will be medical, changes to the living structure –such as grab bars, legal paperwork such as powers of attorney, making sure all financial aspects are in good order.

Coordinating care for children and parents simultaneously is not easy. However, it is important to Plan. Legal, financial, residential, mental and physical healthcare elements must be addressed prior to a crisis. An adult child should guide his or her parent through tough issues while being careful not to take all control away from the parent. Start talking, making suggestions and guiding parents early; do not wait for a crisis.

This column was a result of questions asked on our blog. Feel free to see our blog below and communicate with us there or write us a message here.

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