The honest truth is that it can be hard to tell how your parents are really doing with just a weekly Skype call or phone call. Without being in their living space or physical company, it’s hard to get a gauge on the true state of things in terms of their health, physical and cognitive capabilities.
This is why it’s important to call in and visit elderly parents every so often, and with the Christmas holidays coming up, now is generally the best time for a visit.
Here are 5 things to look out for and observe on your next visit to an elderly parent’s house, because they may be indications that it’s time to step in and offer a little extra help for their safety and your peace-of-mind…
1. A suspicious amount of unopened mail
This is important if your parent(s) have always been organised and on-top of things. If you notice an unusual amount of unopened mail, especially unopened bills, which date back a few weeks, this could be a sign of cognitive impairments, vision troubles or financial troubles your parents don’t know how to tackle. Schedule an appointment with an optometrist for an eye exam, or if financial troubles are to blame, suggest the help of a money manager from within the family.
2. Damage to the garage or vehicles
If you do a quick walk around of the property, including their garage and notice clear signs of damage such as scrapes on the walls, dents or cracked mirrors, this is a sign a parent’s driving skills could be deteriorating. Ask them to go on a drive with you while you’re there to quickly pick up something from the shop and assess how they drive, just to be sure!
3. Their physical appearance
If the physical appearance of your parent(s) has deteriorated since your last visit, this could be a sign of cognitive impairment or physical limitations. Make sure to look for a lack of general grooming, dirty clothes, unwashed hair and noticeable weight loss. These signs are worth a visit to their doctor as things like memory loss can cause an elderly parent to forget to bathe, change and even eat.
4. The care and state of your parent’s pet
While pets are a brilliant source of company for elderly parents, their care can put additional strain on an ageing parent. If a pet looks particularly unkempt, shabby, thin, old or even emaciated, this could be a sign that pet care has become too much of a task for your parent(s). For their sake, and that of your parent(s), it could be time to find them a new home or additional care such as pet walkers, groomers and a mobile vet service.
5. The state of their home
Finally, this is a no-brainer, but if your parent(s) home is not as clean, organised and neat as you remember, this is another obvious sign of deteriorating physical or cognitive capability. Mildew, mould, pantry pests, spoiled food items, dirty bathrooms etc. are all signs that they may need additional help to keep their home clean and safe.
Keep in mind that the Christmas holidays are probably not the best time to hash out these issues. But remember your observations and then call in a family meeting to discuss a way forward at the appropriate time!