Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Helping Seniors Stay in Their Homes as They Age

Mary-Louise Langlois writes the following article about "Helping Seniors Stay in Their Homes as They Age"

     Aging often brings difficult decisions about matters such as accommodation and health-care needs. A senior's family is well advised to plan ahead together.
     Life for senior citizens has changed a lot in the last century. It used to be common for multiple generations of families to live together under the same roof – it is no longer the case. In fact, extended families now are often not even in the same city.
     Children worry about their aging parents and wonder if the family elder can manage on their own. This is becoming a common occurrence as the "Baby Boom" generation creeps toward senior status themselves and yet their own parents are still alive. Who will take care of this aging population?

The Aging Population
     It is tough to grow old and it is difficult watching a parent grow old and no longer be able to care for himself. What can an adult child do to help?
     In truth, some parents don’t want help while others become very dependent.
     In every instance, it is very important to treat aging seniors with dignity and help them to make some tough choices. Sometimes they may not even be aware that they are no longer coping.
     Some seniors sound great over the phone. They become adept at, in a sense, “acting.” They don’t let on to anyone, even their out-of-town children, that all is not well. Recognizing this possibility, if visiting the parent isn’t an immediate possibility, it may be helpful to speak with someone who comes into contact with the parent on a regular basis.

Knowing When Senior Parents Need Help
     Recognizing the subtle symptoms when senior parents are no longer capable of living on their own without help is not always easy.

Still, there are a number of warning signs to look for:
•Loss of weight because they are no longer eating properly
•Forgetting to take medications or over-medicating
•No longer able to take care of house/living space
•Not going out to see friends
•Increasing fearfulness or anxiety
•Unable to manage finances
•Having trouble with personal care
•Not staying in touch with loved ones

Children as Caregivers
     Just because someone can’t do some of these things doesn’t mean he is ready for a “home,” but it may be an indicator that he needs more help and it may be time to have a family meeting.
     It may also be time for the children of seniors to help their parents look at all the living situations available – from finding home-care assistance, to retirement living accommodations to more permanent long-term care – and all the variations in between. It takes time and patience to investigate the available options.
     If the parent is closer to one child than another that reality should be respected and discussed openly so everyone is aware how that particular adult child may have to take the lead in helping out.
     Taking on the care of an adult parent is a demanding task. Most aren’t fully prepared for all the time, energy, consultation and decision-making that is required. With that in mind it is wise to look at all options before jumping into any one thing.

Ongoing Support is Key to Keeping the Elderly Safe in Their Homes
     Aging brings inevitable change and difficult decisions for everyone. While it is not a subject that families generally want to address in advance, the sooner the reality of a loved one needing assistance is discussed, the better. Elderly parents deserve the love and attention they will need to deal with the end stages of life.
     Whether they realize they need help or not, there are practical – and often emotionally-charged – decisions that must be made. Planning and making those decisions together as a loving family unit can sometimes make caring for an aging family member a less painful journey.

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