At no time is the unfairness of life more evident than late middle age. Just when finances have stabilized; the last tuition bill paid; the last child out of the house; and retirement at least imaginable, a parent or aging loved one starts failing. Recall and memory begin slipping while the body does not move with the ease of younger years. Yes, they will need more of your time and attention…and maybe some financial help, too. At what point should you consider an assisted living facility or adult day care? These tough decisions are made easier with the right information.
When should a senior citizen begin to yield his or her independence? Whether physically challenged of intellectually impaired, a self-aware and forthright person will simply admit that they are slipping in one area or another. This however is more exception than rule. Facing deterioration in health is both depressing and frightening; few can resist the impulse to ignore or deny its advent. For children and other concerned persons, telltale signs are more reliable, including:
- An increase in clutter and disorganization in the residence
- An appearance more unkempt than usual
- Extreme mood swings
- Spoiled food in the refrigerator
- Missed appointments
- Overdue bills and collection notifications
- Unexplained vehicular damage
General malaise and confusion also mark a person whose mental and physical health may be suffering from decay. Paying attention to these characteristic signs can help family to determine what the next steps should be.
Knowing that a senior will need some form of help to maintain a quality life, what, then, is the best course of action? If disabilities are purely physical, improvements to home or dwelling may be all that is necessary. Stair-lifts, walk-in bathtubs, bathroom grab bars, access ramps and home monitoring systems may be sufficient to keep a loved one at home while remaining safe and sound. Should he or she suffer from stroke, Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia, solitary living is no longer an option?
One option is to keep the relative at home (or have them move in with family), with a caregiver live with him or her. This preserves familiar surroundings while making sure they maintain nutrition, hygiene and an appropriate activity level.
This is a bigger step. What are the elder’s wishes? Do they need ongoing professional medical care? Is the degree of debilitation such that a facility might better address their condition? Furthermore, which option is more affordable (remember, at-home care must account for mortgages, property taxes and transportation, among other expenses)?
What About Driving?
If the subject seems capable in every other respect, but is experiencing regular traffic mishaps, it might be the time to surrender the driver’s license. Having a doctor recommend this is often the best option.