Visiting your ageing parents during the holidays is a time of reunion and joy. But for many, distance and the added isolation effects of COVID-19 means that more time may have passed than usual since your last visit. Because of this, you may notice some significant changes in your parents’ physical and emotional well-being.
You may be used to your mum or dad being the independent and robust person they have always been. Because of this, there may be a tendency to overlook or justify what are otherwise concerning signs of decline or impairment. In addition, a parent ageing in place has a vested interest in appearing independent. As a result, they might not want to admit they need help and do not want to burden you.
A parent can be very skilled at hiding deficits, despite an ever-increasing need for more support at home or in-home health care. There are seven changes to be on the lookout for next time you visit.
- Mobility. You may not know if your mum or dad has experienced a fall because they deny it, but you can observe their mobility for clues. Since your last visit, do they appear frailer or unbalanced? You may want to pay particular attention to how they navigate stairs. Have they started using a mobility device like a walker or a cane?
- Medication errors. Although you might not be able to confirm whether your parent is taking medications correctly, you can observe some details that might help. Is there a medication management system in place, for example, a weekly medication box? Are there bottles of expired medications? Does the entire medication system seem disorganised and chaotic?
- Problems with cooking or shopping. Look inside the fridge and pantry. Is there spoiling food? Does it seem as though there are adequate food supplies? Observe your parent’s cooking to see that they are following proper steps and aren’t confused. Do they leave appliances unattended, or the freezer door open?
- Poor hygiene. Poor hygiene is a red flag that something is wrong, and there are several possibilities. One is that your parent has a physical problem that makes it difficult or unsafe to shower or do the laundry. The other possibility is that your parent forgets to bathe, or doesn’t like the cold, or is afraid of falling due to experiencing cognitive decline.
- Driving. Driving with them will reveal a lot about their abilities (or lack thereof) regarding safe driving. Look for dents and dings on the car. Sometimes older adults drive when they shouldn’t, and other times, they stop driving out of fear.
- Memory loss. Frequent hesitation in finding words or using word substitutions can indicate the first stages of memory loss. If the person is asking for the same information repeatedly, this could be another sign of memory loss.
- Social isolation. Loneliness affects many older adults, and the situation has become much harder to manage with lockdowns and quarantines. If your parent is no longer driving or visiting friends and family, social isolation can increase.
Talking to a Parent About In-Home Care
When it becomes evident that our ageing parents need some additional assistance in the home, the next step is broaching the subject. It can be challenging to talk about this topic with your parents as it can make them feel less independent and defensive. This is a normal reaction, and one Home Care Assistance can help navigate. We all recognise that while loved ones want to remain independent, their long-term health and welfare are essential and equally important. So here are a few ways we recommend approaching the discussion on in-home care.
- Planning is vital. Choose a place and time when there will be no interruptions, so the emphasis is on topic.
- Approach the discussion with sensitivity. Begin the conversation in a natural and comfortable environment and begin with open-ended questions. Ask how things are going at home and try not to overpower the discussion with one-sided comments and observations.
- Involve them. Your ageing parents will be grateful to be included in a candid talk about their safety and care. Ensure they’re involved in any decision-making and empower them to choose the in-home health care solutions best suited to them.
- Be brave. You will need to be steadfast and resilient when sharing the issues you’ve become aware of to persuade your loved ones to work with you to come to a mutual decision.
- Keep your comments positive and specific. An example is saying, “I have noticed you aren’t getting out much anymore since giving up driving. What do you think about having a carer provide some additional support once a week to take you to the places you would like to go?”
- Stress that their priorities are yours too. Tell them that you’re on their side and emphasise that the most important thing is their health and safety. Highlight that they can continue enjoying their current lifestyle at home with some outside help.
- Validate their worries and desires. Pay attention and recognise your ageing parents’ apprehensions. Allow their thoughts to steer you into coming up with a possible solution that fits their current lifestyle. Knowing how they envision their lives will also assist in creating a plan for future care together.
Do Your Homework
Conversations around in-home health can be sensitive and difficult to initiate. Acknowledging your parent needs in-home care and making it happen can be a huge transition for everyone involved. Patience and compassion are critical so that the process runs smoothly and they feel heard and respected. Prepare for your conversation.
- Before talking with your parent, make a list of your concerns. You may have the conversation in person or over the phone, but you will want to talk about specific issues. Try to avoid making vague comments like, “I think you need some help.”
- Know your options. Be informed by researching the many in-home care options and aged care services available. Connect with aged care providers such as Home Care Assistance. Have an open conversation and ask a lot of questions to determine see what care is possible, allowing your parent to remain at home with support.
- Prepare for a long journey. Your parent may be resistant to the idea of in-home care, so be prepared to have more than one talk. Respectfully listen and acknowledge their apprehensions about in-home care.
- Plan to negotiate a very light home care schedule to start. Your parents want to feel they are in control and the best way to do that is to reach a consensus. Getting “your foot in the door” with a home care provider such as Home Care Assistance is the most critical step. After that, things are likely to go smoothly, and you can increase hours as needed.
- Factor in feelings of guilt and remorse. When having conversations regarding in-home care, it is common for feelings of remorse and responsibility to affect you or other family members. Ask yourself how caring for your parents may affect your relationships with siblings and other immediate family members.
- Begin the conversation early. Commonly, families wait to start the discussion only after an emergency, like a fall, has occurred. Notice the signs and start the conversations early.
How can Home Care Assistance (HCA) Help?
HCA provides personalised and flexible in-home care tailored to suit the evolving needs of older Australians. This enables independent ageing in place. Our Care Workers provide support and companionship to clients allowing them to live a happy and dignified life in the comfort of their own home by offering support with their day-to-day activities and overall health and wellbeing.
This is not something you need to do alone. Seek support and advice from Home Care Assistance. These Summer holidays and festive season pay particular attention when visiting your ageing parents. In the event you have some concerns, know that support is there for you too.
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As a leading age care provider, Home Care Assistance offers tailored in-home care services for older Australians, enabling them to live happier and healthier lives in the comfort of their own homes.
We offer private and government subsidised Care Packages and have office locations that are a registered NDIS provider. Our Care Workers undergo extensive training in order to deliver unmatched in-home aged care services where people can continue ageing in place. We are proud ambassadors of the My Aged Care government funded aged care program, enabling Australians to successfully navigate the process and gain approval for in-home care support packages. Home Care Assistance offers hourly care, specialised care, Alzheimer’s and Dementia care, hospital to home care, and 24 hour in home care.