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Is It Time to Find Care for Your Aging Parent?

Five signs they need help, and how to bring it up

Over the holiday season, you’ll visit with parents and grandparents you may not normally see throughout the rest of the year. Eventually you will notice your aging mom or dad is starting to show signs that independent living is more of a struggle than it once was. It might even be time to start caring for aging parents.

While no one looks forward to broaching this sensitive topic, there are telltale signs that signal more help is in the interest of their safety. Michele Stokes, PhD, OhioHealth neuroscience director, shares the common signs that parents require more care and how you can talk to them about it.

1. Decline in grooming care.

If they begin to shower less frequently, or their clothes appear to be dirty or disheveled, this is a key sign taking care of themselves is becoming more difficult.

2. Frailty.

If going up and down stairs is taxing, or simply moving between rooms in their home exhausts them, you should ask how they are feeling and if their energy levels are decreasing.

3. Challenges in managing money.

Taking care of a home can be costly, and if the maintenance becomes more expensive than they can sustain, you may want to discuss alternative and less expensive living arrangements.

4. Driving problems.

If you notice an increase in scratches or dings in your parent’s car, this could signal difficulty driving. A cited accident isn’t always the only sign that driving is becoming challenging — and unsafe.

5. Weight gain or loss.

Boredom, finances and energy levels could cause your parent to eat food that’s heavily processed and less nutritious. Fast food and carb-heavy snacks are easier to prepare and cost less, and could cause weight gain. On the other hand, if they lose weight rapidly, it could signal preparing food is challenging or their appetite is decreasing, which could also point to other health issues.

It’s best to start talking about how to handle a decline in self-care before it becomes a reality, Stokes says. “Have these conversations early and often,” she recommends.

You can present it in a way similarly to how you would in planning any other important life stage transition like retirement, financial planning or creating a will. If your aging parent is ill and additional care needs are imminent, allow your loved one as much control as possible in decision-making — but always put safety first.

If you think it is time to get professional help, find the right doctor to help you here.