Checklist for adult children and their aging parents
As parents age, their needs change. Often it is up to family members?adult children in particular?to notice these changes and to make sense of what they mean. Holidays and other family occasions can be the times when changes are most likely to be noticed, especially for geographically-separated families. For every family, however, the situation presents three different challenges:
- Parental pride: aging parents may be unwilling to ask for help, or reluctant to accept help if it is offered.
- Adult children?s denial: adult children may refuse to see that their parents need help.
- General lack of information: perhaps neither the aging parents nor their adult children really know how to tell significant changes from less important ones.
Working around parental pride is never easy, but as parents age it becomes increasingly important. By the same token, adult children need to move beyond denial that their parents may need help. In both instances, the key is the information gained from paying close attention to aging parents. Adult children usually know their parents better than anyone else and are therefore the most astute observers of their parents? behavior.
For example, if Mom drives to the drugstore and then can?t find her way home, anyone would know that this is probably significant. If Mom suddenly can?t think of the name of a childhood friend from long ago, however, the only way to know if this is an important change is to know Mom.
The key, of course, is change. Here?s a checklist of specific changes adult children should watch for.
- Personal hygiene problems
- Home in disarray or needing to be cleaned
- Weight loss or weight gain?check for spoiled food or insufficient food in the home
- Failure to manage medications or medical appointments
- Increased difficulty with mobility (such as climbing stairs or using a bathtub)
- Changes in judgment, mood, or overall behavior
- Increased forgetfulness?check for unopened mail or unread newspapers
- Missed bill payments or other financial difficulties
- Unusual or extravagant purchases that are out of character
- Decreased social activities or failing to maintain friendships
Of course, not every item on this list will apply to every situation. The point is that adult children need to be attentive to their aging parents, to observe carefully, and to be prepared to act when the time comes that parents need help.