Is your aging parent still safe living at home alone?

This is a question many adult children find themselves asking. Our aging parents likely wish to stay in the comfort of their homes, but we may find ourselves worrying about them more and more. If you are caregiving from a distance, this problem is exacerbated by not being there regularly to provide support or spot problems.

As a long-distance caregiver, the first step to assessing senior home safety to determine if your aging parent can still manage at home is to observe and record. It’s likely you’ve already spotted some troubling signs if you’re reading this article. Keep a record of what you’re noticing. This will help you objectively see how much things are changing, as well as to communicate clearly with other relatives, doctors or professionals you may call on for help. Here are some areas you should observe:

  • Home maintenance: Is the level of upkeep consistent with past patterns? Are simple things in disrepair? Is the home itself aging to the point where maintenance is overwhelming or costly? Plan to incorporate a “home checkup” into regular visits, where you or relevant professionals check major systems.
  • Home cleanliness: Is the home relatively clean and without clutter? Does it appear your parent is having trouble with standard cleaning tasks?
  • Personal hygiene: Are there signs Dad isn’t taking a shower or shaving? Is there a urine smell? Is your parent wearing pajamas all day or neglecting a lifelong routine?
  • Nutrition: Is there spoiled food in the refrigerator or pantry? Does Mom appear to be eating only takeout or snack food? Is the kitchen empty?
  • Injury/falls: Does Dad have unexplained bruises or cuts? Has Mom admitted to falling once or twice, but says it’s nothing to worry about? Have you noticed Dad has cut back on normal tasks or stays primarily in a limited space (fear of falling/trying to avoid injury)? Make sure you download our Falls Prevention Checklist.
  • Other important factors: cognition/memory loss, driving safety, guns or hazardous materials in the home, medication management/abuse, alcohol use, isolation/depression, etc.

You may benefit from a Professional Care Management Home Evaluation. Why? First, a care manager can identify subtle signs and provide an objective, expert view that accounts for a whole range of factors. Second, the care manager can be called upon to do periodic observations if you live far away. Third, the care manager can be invaluable in setting up resources to help and stepping in should an emergency arise.

The next step is to enlist help in key areas. Most clients are reluctant to get in-home help at first, then relieved and pleased with the decision. On both our EasyLiving and Aging Wisely sites we offer advice on talking to your aging parents about getting help and we’re also glad to advise you personally. Start slow with what is most needed. Most parents are more likely to accept concrete help with tasks such as home maintenance or cleaning. As we age (and our homes age), some outside help is one of the best steps we can take to ensure we stay safe and are able to remain at home.

Check out our Aging in Place Checklist for key areas to address and consider doing some “spring cleaning” this year for a safe, healthy living environment. Contact our EasyLiving team (727-447-5845) for a free home evaluation and consultation!