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Does your elderly parent need help?

By Ian Hull

It’s a situation shared by many – you have a single elderly parent living alone. They’ve always been able to handle their day-to-day needs, with the occasional helping hand from family members. But something doesn’t seem right.

It often starts with your intuition. If you visit your parent regularly, it can be difficult to spot the signs of decline because these can happen gradually. They begin losing weight due to improper eating, or they start letting their appearance slide, or personal finance obligations – like credit card payments – are sometimes missed. Before you know it, those “something doesn’t seem right” thoughts become “something isn’t right” certainty.

Of course, there are more dramatic signs of not coping, everything from confused, wandering, to car accidents, to kitchen fires. This article provides a great overview of 12 signs to look for in determining whether an elderly parent needs help.

Advance planning

While you can’t stop the aging process, you can take a few small steps now – while your parent is healthy and well – that can help ease the burden later if help is needed. Here are three to consider.

  1. Start the conversation: People in their 60s and 70s are usually active and independent. But if your parent has reached age 80, a conversation with your parent about “what if” is highly advisable, despite any discomfort in raising the topic. Are they open to move into a retirement home when the time comes? Would they prefer home-based care? Would they consider downsizing now, rather than later? Your parent may not be in a position to express their thoughts in two or three years. By having the conversation now, you can factor your parent’s wishes into future decisions.
  2. Get a financial opinion: Seek the help of a financial advisor (yours or your parent’s) to determine what type of help is affordable if your parent is no longer able to care for themselves. Ideally, your parent should be involved in these conversations. This information will give both of you an idea of what care options are feasible in the future.
  3. Make a retirement home visit: If a retirement home is a possible future option, a tour of one or two homes is a great way to familiarize your parent with retirement home living. Even if your parent is years away from a move, the ideal time to tour places is when there’s no pressure or crisis. If a need to move arises later, your parent already has some comfort level with the options available.

This short article – although written by a retirement home provider – offers some great tips for starting a conversation. 

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