Have you been noticing a few more “senior moments” than usual? Is your loved one forgetting names, searching for words failing to remember plans? What falls under “normal” and what should be a sign for concern?
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1. Compare their current state to 10 years ago.
Before jumping on anyone’s back, take your time to assess where your parents are at now compared to ten years ago. Small acts such as bills being shoved in a drawer could be a sign of a larger problem for some. If your mom has been doing this for as long as you can remember, this likely isn’t a huge deal.
When I was caring for my mom, I found myself rushing in and out of her house constantly. We had appointments all day, prescriptions to pick up, errands to run and by the time we got back I was so exhausted all I wanted was to go home to my dog and bed. My mom would say to me “Honey it’s not that late, can’t you stay another hour?” Her intention was never to guilt me, although it did, I just don’t think she was aware of the time frame. On top of her care, I had so many of my own obligations to take care of I felt like I was in a constant rush. The problem is rushing like this blinds you. You end up so focused on tasks you miss a lot of the little things. These are the parts that will help show you where your parents need help, but also make up the memories we cherish.
2. What is the Current Routine?
Before addressing anything with your parents, continue comparing things while you go through parts of their routines with them. Are they getting around okay? How’s their driving? Are there any changes in pet care? Is their personal hygiene different? Are the chores getting done? Learning more about what happens day to day can be a lot, so don’t try to do this all at once. Try to increase the amount of time you spend with mom and dad. Habits and routines will be different on different days and at different times of the day. But in going through their routine, you can look out for little problems to fix which can prevent them from turning into much more significant issues.
3. Get a Checkup and Up To Date List of Medications
Make an appointment with your parent’s doctor to do a full-scale checkup. It’s amazing how many times people jump to the conclusion “my mom is responding to my questions weird, I think she has dementia” when in reality her hearing was failing and just couldn’t hear the question. So before jumping to any assumptions, get your bases covered by a doctor, and while you’re there, write up a full and current list of medications.
4. Identify Where Help May be Necessary.
Make a list of your concerns in advance, it’s important you have all of your points listed out and ready before your talk. If the idea of this conversation scares or concerns you, read the next post, “How to Discuss the Future of Aging with Your Parents” for best practices.