There are some awkward conversations we know are inevitable – talking to our kids about the birds and the bees, terminating an employee or being fired or having to "parent" our mom or dad when you know it's no longer a good idea for them to be home alone.
Avoiding the elephant in the room generally only adds to the discomfort and tension. Many times, it's better to just face the issue head-on, even when it's literally the last thing you want to talk about.
Introducing the idea of home care to an elderly parent is hard. Just raising the subject of a caregiver, other than yourself, may cause tremendous turmoil and upset. No matter how difficult the conversation can be, it may be the only way to ensure the long-term well-being of your mom or dad – especially if they are showing signs of cognitive or mobility issues, and are struggling to cope.
Naturally, it can be a challenge to know just when to introduce the idea of hiring a home-care agency to help. After all, you may have tried to bring it up at the first signs of difficulties, caused an argument, and now fear bringing it up again. While you will have to determine the ideal solution for your parent based on their needs and individual situation, when you witness the following signs, you can be confident that it is the right time to broach the subject.
WEIGHT LOSS: This can be tricky if you see your parent on a daily or regular basis. You may not notice weight loss until it becomes extreme. However, if you find that a parent appears thinner than what you consider "normal," it may be a sign of trouble ahead. Lisa Gwyther, Duke University's Family Support Program director and co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan: A Family Guide, has stated that “people suffering from a memory impairment, such as Alzheimer's, often either forget to eat certain meals or forget how to properly manage and cook their food, causing them to lose weight.” A parent who suddenly sheds pounds could be suffering from the first symptoms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, ALS, or even a mild stroke. In such cases, it is, of course, advisable to consult with Mom or Dad’s doctor as well as considering the available home-care options. For example, if you discover that your parent can’t recall eating or is failing to eat, it may be time to consider a medical assessment before beginning your home-care search so you'll know exactly what you're facing. However, maybe the weight loss is due to normal physical challenges. Perhaps Mom or Dad has trouble standing at the counter for any length of time, making it difficult to prepare food, or perhaps it’s difficult to bend in order to reach food in the cupboards or refrigerator. Also, it can be painful to use hands because of arthritis or other mobility issues such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis. If this is the case, your parent may be avoiding doing those everyday tasks such as food preparation. A caregiver could be a perfect solution, as he or she can help with some of these difficult tasks. Open the subject with your elderly parent as a matter-of-fact issue and navigate to the answer. For example: “Mom, you’re thinner than usual, are you getting enough to eat?” On the other hand, noticeable weight gain can also be a sign that a private caregiver may be required, as your parent may be forgetting that they have eaten, may be struggling to prepare healthy food and opting for fattening or unhealthy snacks, or even a combination of both.
Failing to Perform Personal Hygiene: This is less difficult to notice, but may be a sign that Home Care is required. We are not talking about grooming, such as maintaining flawless eyebrows, painting the nails or putting on makeup. What we mean here is a parent who suddenly develops body odor (perhaps she is now afraid to take showers, or thinks she has already taken a shower that day – even though it’s really been three days), wears the same clothes, has an unkempt appearance, and whose usual hygiene habits seem to have disappeared. If Dad usually appears clean-shaven, but suddenly starts to wear three-day-old stubble, or if Mom has begun to habitually wear stained clothes when she has been fastidious for years, it may be time to discuss the idea of home care with them.
Housekeeping is Failing: Again, this is something to consider with a bit of care. Was the home usually a bit cluttered, or is the house messier than usual? A parent who was always a bit on the messy side will usually remain a bit untidy, in terms of housekeeping, as they age. However, if a parent suddenly slides into sloppiness, it may be a sign of a cognitive issue. If you notice items appearing in unlikely places, for instance, the container of coffee creamer tucked into the dishwasher rather than the refrigerator, or shoes placed on the table rather than beneath it, there may be an issue of confusion or memory loss. Parents with dementia, including Alzheimer’s, a recent stroke and other issues, may be unsafe in their home alone. Don't overlook other signs where housekeeping is concerned. For instance, stacks of unopened mail, stale or spoiled food in the kitchen or refrigerator, grime or clutter in the bathroom, unattended messes from pets, plants left to die… these, too, are signs that Mom or Dad may be struggling to cope. This could be the perfect time to employ a caregiver.
Aggressive Outbursts: Dementia, including Alzheimer's, and other issues that cause cognitive decline can also lead to unusually defensive and aggressive outbursts. Whether it is verbal or physical, it can be difficult to manage without the help of a skilled caregiver. When any family member who is also a caregiver starts to feel overwhelmed by these outbursts or even stressed and resentful, it is necessary to consider hiring assistance from a skilled home-care professional.
How are You Coping? One of the key signs that it might be time to discuss home care with your parent is that you are overwhelmed or exhausted by the demands now placed on you. Juggling a full-time job, family, and the extra care an elderly parent needs, can leave anybody worn out. However, there is often a fear (or even, guilt) that you must be available to address any issues that arise. If you find that you are needed more frequently than before to assist with your parent’s needs, it is a clear sign that they are becoming less able to care for themselves. Escalating care needs that may well be beyond your ability often lead to caregiver stress, or compassion fatigue, so even though you probably dread raising the subject with Mom or Dad, the idea of home care could be vital for the ongoing safety and health, of not just your parent, but also, you.
One great way to lay the groundwork for this conversation is to have a discussion about "goals" with your parent, (hopefully, long before any health issues arise). A common goal is to remain living at home, and this allows you to easily, but delicately, mention the benefits of Home Care. Let Mom or Dad know that hiring a home-care company to help them cope with everyday tasks can be a big step toward improving their quality of life while remaining at home. Find out how Favor Home Care can provide the safe and compassionate care your parent needs by calling our expert team today at 501-725-CARE.