No, not that talk! Not the talk your mom or dad may have had with you when you entered puberty. This is the talk you have with your parents. This is the talk where you share with them your concern about their health.
Perhaps you’ve noticed the lawn hasn’t been mowed for a while, or your mother’s cooking pots have burned bottoms, or the burned-out bulb in the hall still hasn’t been changed.
Perhaps your dad’s car has dings from minor accidents, or your mother slipped and fell, or you’re concerned they aren’t eating properly.
Events That Raise Red Flags
Frequently, an event triggers concern about the health and well-being of a caretaker’s parents.
- A parent may fall or become ill. A third of adults over the age of 65 fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. One out of five falls results in serious injury, such as broken bones or head trauma.
- They may be diagnosed with early-stage dementia or Alzheimer's Disease.
- They may have difficulty cooking or eating.
- They may forget to take or have conflicts with their medication.
- A parent's eyesight may degenerate so much that he can no longer drive to doctor's appointments or the grocery store.
- They may have a vehicle accident.
- A loved one who is already disabled may lose her caregiver.
More than half of seniors polled in "Aging in Place in America" are concerned that health problems may jeopardize their ability to stay in their own homes. Another 26 percent cite memory problems, and an additional 23 percent mentioned the inability to drive.
Your parent may well realize there’s a problem but doesn’t want to bother you. After all, your parents still perceive themselves as taking care of you, not vice versa.
Indicators of Health Problems
The Mayo Clinic has listed some indicators that a parent may be experiencing health problems. They include:
- Failure to participate in daily routines, such as bathing and tooth-brushing
- Failure to maintain property, including burned-out light bulbs, unmowed lawn, scorched cooking pots
- Memory loss, such as forgetting words or getting lost
- Taking medication incorrectly or forgetting to take it
- Dings or other indicators of vehicle accidents
- Weight loss
- Change in social activity participation
- Reluctance to walk
If your parent is experiencing any of these issues, it may be time to consult their doctor or another medical expert and ask for an evaluation of their health.
Increasing disability is not the sole reason you may want to discuss care options with your parents. Perhaps you were transferred, and no sibling lives near mom and dad. Perhaps your job has become more demanding, and you no longer have the time to help your parents.
What happens if you or your child becomes ill or disabled? Or, due to circumstances, you may no longer be able to balance family, home, and work responsibilities.
You’ve probably heard it from your parents before: “Don’t worry about us. I was taking care of myself before you were born.” However, that may only be a rationalization to deny your parents’ fear of change.
It would be easy to listen to your parents. After all, it’s a sad moment in a child’s life when he realizes his parents are going to start to need help instead of offering help.
Still, it’s important to make an assessment and decide whether it’s time to have the talk about considering alternative living arrangements.