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Aging Parents: 7 Signs It's Time to Offer Help

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As your parents age, you want to know they're taking good care of themselves, staying healthy, and are able to maintain and enjoy their independence. You also want to provide assistance should they ever need your help.

But how will you know whether they need your help if they never ask for it? When should you step in with assistance?

If your parents experience a sudden illness or accident, their needs are quickly obvious, and your role in providing care becomes immediately clear. But if things progress more gradually, it can be difficult to gauge when to step in and how much assistance to offer.

Often parents are hesitant to ask their children for help, insisting they can “handle” things. Some maintain a fine line between caring and coddling, in which case you should take your cues from them.

Sometimes parents simply may not realize they need help. In these cases, you'll want to remain vigilant of any signs and patterns that escape their attention and could signal it’s time to become more involved. Clearly, if you notice dangerous, possibly life-threatening behaviors, you should be firm about intervening for their safety’s sake.

When weighing whether to step in with assistance, look for these seven signs. They’re indicators that you may need to be more “hands on” to ensure that your parents stay safe and happy.

1. Difficulty walking or climbing stairs. Parents who have trouble getting around could be at a greater risk of falling and sustaining serious injuries. Impaired mobility can also make it difficult to fully care for oneself.

2. Poor personal hygiene, soiled clothing, difficulty shaving or showering. Outward appearances can indicate an inability to maintain the daily routine of good grooming.

3. Changes in eating habits. Loss of appetite and weight loss may be sign of illness. Or it can mean your parents no longer have the energy required for cooking or are unable to navigate the many kitchen activities required for meal preparation (reading labels, operating appliances, using cookware, cleaning dishes).

4. Forgetfulness or confusion about familiar things. While age-related memory loss is normal, watch for patterns of forgetfulness that interfere with daily living.

5. Forgetting medications or taking them too frequently. A doctor or pharmacist can help you identify signs that your parents may be neglecting to take their meds or are overmedicating. Some of their behaviors can also be reactions to medications and simple adjustments may be required.

6. Depression, persistent irritability or sudden mood changes. Everyone has “off” days, gets grouchy, or feels sad. But persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, moodiness, or restlessness should be addressed. Likewise, be aware if your parents are withdrawn or have lost interest or pleasure in people, hobbies, or activities that once brought enjoyment.

7. Unpaid bills. These are signs your parents may be having difficulty keeping up with personal finances. Others include simple bookkeeping mistakes, like making duplicate payments.

Stepping In

If you’ve decided it’s time offer more assistance, discuss your concerns with your parents, specifically those regarding their safety, health and overall security. Let them know you care and are stepping in with support, not asking them to step aside. Allow them to offer suggestions on ways you can provide help.

If it’s difficult for your parents to accept your involvement, be patient. Try talking with a doctor or healthcare provider in the interim for additional guidance. Tap into local senior care resources for more insights on how to manage your unique situation.

With a little understanding, you can work with your parents to create helpful solutions that will benefit everyone.

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why did you become a caregiver