holidays are a great time to talk to your elderly paraents about being "fine"
Across the country during the holidays there will be thousands visiting their parents. The same parents who tell you weekly they are "FINE". The same parents who never complain, which makes your life easier doesn't it? The same parents who are driving but you're not sure if they should be. The same parents who go to the doctors' and tell you everything is just "FINE".
Parents don't want to bother their children. They may know that things just aren't the same as they used to be but they don't want to ask. They are from a generation that families all lived together, took care of each other but we're not from that same group. We go to college out of state and stay there; we hae busy lives with children, work obligations and sometimes just don't have the time to ask those pesky questions. If we're being told by them they are FINE then we let it go. Face it, it's easier isn't it? If we don't dig deep into what is going on it means we don't have to burden ourselves on how to replace what they can't do anymore.
TEN THINGS TO LOOK FOR BEFORE A CRISIS HAPPENS:
1. THE CAR -
Drive with your parents to see if they can. Ask them to drive to the store without giving them the directions there and back. Check and see if there are dents, dings, damage. Look for tickets they may have gotten in their glove compartment.
2. THE MEDICATIONS-Look around, find their medications. Are they taking them? When were they renewed last? Are they organized. Ask them if they are managing their medications okay. Do they know what they are taking and why their taking them? Do they have a list of their medications readily available?
3. THE HOUSE-Keep your eyes open as to how the house looks. Often times when people get older they tend to hoard things. Are there papers everywhere? Are there dirty clothes around, dishes in the sink, garbage not emptied? Disrepair of anything outdoors and indoors? Who mows the grass? plows the snow? Who do they call when there is a problem in the house with the plumbing?
4. THE BILLS and MONEY- Do you see bills stacked up? Shut off notices? are they able to write their checks and pay their bills? Talk to them about who is in charge of them and if they know when to pay their bills, order oil, pay the electric bill, the cable bill their insurance bills. Life insurance bills? Who manages the money? Are they aware of the money they have and where it is? Do they have a lot of cash around the house?
5. THE GROCERIES- Who is in charge of grocery shopping? The cooking? Are they on a special diet and do they know what that is? Food storage and outdated cans of food as well as outdated boxes of food? What are they eating? How often do they eat. Who cooks? can they use the stove safely? The microwave? do they eat three meals a day? Is that person in charge of all the meals or do they go out to eat once or twice a week or daily? Where do they go to eat? Who brings them there?
6. COGNITION- Are you speaking to your parents and they don't seem to participate in the conversation? Do they make yes and no statements part of how they answer everything with you? Taking the time to have a conversation will be an opportunity for you to know if they have significant memory issues, confusion about what season it is or month it is. The last time you spoke to them on the phone, knowing your name and other family members names. It's difficult to assess but this will help you know the signs to look for.
7. MEDICAL MANAGEMENT-Who are their doctors? Do they have many different doctors and specialists? Do these doctors talk to each other so they are all aware of any changes made in medications or treatments? How often do they go to the doctor? Who manages the appointments? Transportation? Eye doctor, dentist, primary care physician, cardiologist, neurologist, whomever is involved with their care. Is there a list? Do you as a family member have access to information from their doctor's to have them call a family member when there is a change or an event?
8. EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT- Do they know how to manage an emergency? If one falls do they have access to life line or something similar? Neighbors checking in? Phone numbers readily available? List of medications and physicians to access easily by emergency personnel? Contact information?
9. FUNCTIONALITY- This is probably the most important of all. How do they function. Watch how they get out of a chair. Look for bruises from past falls. Ask them if they have fallen at all. Don't put a short time frame on it because they may have not fallen in the last month but fell last summer and laid there until a neighbor came to help. Are they touching the walls and furniture to keep themselves steady? Can they button their coat or shirt without help? How do they bath? Are they not showering because they are afraid of falling? Do they not take a bath because the tub is too high to get into? Be observant of how they move and how they dress.
10. CONTINENCE- As we get older it is more difficult to hold our urine. If your parents have an odor of urine, you see multiple items hand washed and hanging in the bathroom ask the question. If they are seriously incontinent of urine this needs to be addressed. They could have a urinary tract infection, which is a common condition often not identified until it's too late. Are there bags of depends around that weren't there before. Have the discussion.