When should I seek care for Mom and/or Dad?

This question is asked countless times by adult children concerned about their aging parents.  Will Mom be able to continue cooking at home; will Dad be able to drive; will they be able to maintain themselves in their home without injury?  As with most questions dealing with we human beings, there are no “cookbook” answers, and the best answer for one is not necessarily a good answer for the next person.

The first question to ask is what do they want to do?  Self-determination is a key element in anyone’s life, and just because a person or a couple is aging and less capable of managing all aspects of their lives does not mean they should lose all decision-making about their lives.  If they wish to remain in their home, an analysis of the home and its requirements should be conducted to determine if it is realistic.

One thing to consider is whether Mom and Dad can continue to reside in their home.  Are there stairs to climb, and are they still able to do that without serious strain?  Is the house too big for them to take care of as they age?  Are they able to do the cleaning and home maintenance chores that any home requires?  Answers to these questions and others will determine whether to seek an alternative residential arrangement for them.  Such alternatives include independent living apartments with meals provided, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.  However, if they can remain in their home, and are beginning to need assistance, then an in-home caregiver might be for them.

The next questions to be answered relate to their mental health and stability.  Are they cogent and aware of their surroundings?  Are they well oriented to time and place?  Do they show signs of significant memory loss or confusion?  Are they still able to dress themselves and care for their personal hygiene?  Answers to these questions will further narrow down the options for them and clarify what is safest for them.

One thing we do know is that, almost across the board, people are happier and healthier if they are able to remain in their homes.  Almost no one wants to move to a nursing home or an assisted living facility.  Not that they are bad places; they aren’t as a general rule.  However, they are far less individualized in their care, so people prefer to be at home.


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