Aging Parents: Issues and Problems
Reasons adult children grow concerned about aging parents
Situations arise with aging parents that may be warning signs, indicating that it is time to start thinking about finding seniors' care for your parents (such as home care services or assisted living facilities). Perhaps they may be signs that you need to pay closer attention to your parents. Here's a look at a variety of concerns you may have, along with links to solutions or further resources so you can find help.
Mom or dad gets sick
If your mom or dad is prone to frequent illness or has a chronic health problem, this can cause concern. A health crisis is the most common cause for a move into senior housing. For example, if a senior contracts pneumonia and is in their home alone in this state, you may feel the need to find a safer environment, like that afforded by a retirement home. If your parent has chronic health issues that occasionally worsen, consider the benefits of a short term stay in a care home.
More serious illness
If mom or dad has been diagnosed with a degenerative illness such as Parkinson's or any other serious illness (including Alzheimer's and other dementias), this will change all of your lives. Memory care facilities should be part of your plan as the disease progresses.
Other serious sicknesses such as cancer, heart disease or lung disease are grave concerns, of course. Aside from hospitalization and other health care attention, you may want to check into the availability of home health care to facilitate ongoing health improvements. In recovery from a medical procedure, some retirement homes offer convalescent care as a bridge between hospitalization and a return home.
Signs of self-neglect from parents
Parents who live alone and are in isolation from others may fall into neglect of some basic care. Basic care of the home can be difficult as your parents age. You may need to help them with things like home repairs and typical household maintenance, such as changing the lightbulbs and other basics. If your parents' home is poorly lit, or there are messy hallways, entrance ways and stairways, etc., these things can endanger your parents' safety.
Similarly, neglect of personal hygiene can be natural, to some degree. As people age, they may care less what others think. But if bad hygiene becomes a noticeable, consistent issue, it can be a sign that parents are depressed; or worse, it can be a sign of the onset of dementia. On its own, some self-neglect may not be bad, but beware of other signs of depression or dementia.
Mom or dad had a fall
Any severe fall can be cause for grave concern. Falls by seniors are a common reason for a high percentage of retirement home move-ins. And with good reason. Many homes are not well-designed for senior safety. On the other hand, retirement housing today is designed to aid mobility and accessibility. Mving into a seniors' care facility can make perfect sense, after a fall.
If the fall was less serious, you can do a number of things to improve your parents' home and help prevent future falls. Or, if you have the budget, you can even make renovations to your parents' home to design for senior safety. (See more below.)
Mom or dad lives in vulnerable circumstances
Perhaps they live in an area with a rising crime rate, or they are all alone and have, in fact, been victimised. If your parents live in a neighbourhood where they are vulnerable to crime, or if they have indeed been scammed online, at the door or elsewhere, this may be reason for considering a change. When people move into the secure, safe environment of an independent living retirement home, they and their children find great relief.
Mom or dad is getting increasingly forgetful
Memory loss is another relative issue. Some memory loss can be a simple sign of aging. If memory loss is limited to forgetting some words, losing car keys or forgetting small appointments, this may not be cause for concern. If you tell your parents something important one day and they forget it the very next this may be more serious. Other more concerning issues related to memory loss are getting lost in neighbourhoods they should know well and forgetting very common words. If mom or dad is losing weight (and there is no other explanation for this), this may be a sign that they are, in fact, forgetting to eat. We go into more detail about manifestations of memory loss and when you should be concerned.
Mom or dad is increasingly irritable and irrational
Increasingly irrational behaviour is disconcerting, but not always a sign of dementia. Read more about Sundown Syndrome, for example, which is often — though not always — associated with Alzheimer's Disease.
Concerned about your parents' driving
Driving is a challenge for older adults, and many seniors cling strongly to the independence that driving affords. It's another very difficult topic to discuss with your aging relatives, one that can quickly degenerate, if you say the wrong thing.
In the province of Ontario it is necessary for drivers 80 and older to complete screening exercises that test their cognitive abilities. Other provinces have some safeguards also, which helps take the onus off family.
This is not an issue to be taken lightly, certainly, as tragedies have certainly taken place with senior drivers behind the wheel. It is possible to help your parents give up driving, but this is not easy.
Mom or dad's home needs updating
If your parents live in a home that has not been updated in a long time, the place can become unduly hazardous. If your parents' home is unsafe, there are simple things you can do to make it safer. For example:
- You can remove old rugs and carpeting, etc., to help make the home safer
- Add lighting where it is currently inadequate
Make changes only with the cooperation of your parents.
Parents have increasing difficulty "getting around"
As early as 2012, 33% of the population 65 and over had some form of disability, while 67% of those 75 years and older "cannot walk or require mechanical support or a wheelchair or help from other people to get around"1.
Some short term helps include retrofitting homes to improve mobility. This has pros and cons, the biggest disadvantage being the cost, of course. Most aging Canadians do want to remain in their own home and age in place: over 85% according to the CMHC. Learn more about mobility support for seniors.
Some other typical concerns adult children may have about aging parents:
Over the years, we have covered other concerns adult children may have about their aging parents. These include:
1"Housing for Older Canadians." cmhc-schl.gc.ca