Reality check - lets talk about your parents

Lets talk reality! I am about to ask you to look at yourself, dig deep and pay attention. Aging in place can work for some and not for others. Success to those who are older, comes by having a great support team! Things can change rapidly, a fall, an onset of Dementia or Alzheimers can make a huge difference in the way someone is able to handle day to day living. Do you visit your parents or your grandparents often?  Or maybe once a year or every couple of years? Maybe you are not able to travel that often. The next time you visit, the voice on the phone may not match what you physically see.

Now, I am not writer and I don't use a big words that requires you to pull out the thesaurus, however I do speak from the heart, and my goal is not to offend, place guilt or hurt anyone's feelings, it is simply to raise awareness. So here it goes.

1.  FOOD

Hot and healthy meals.  In Miami you can order a 3 meal canteen service that
arrives in the morning delivering 3 hot healthy meals for the day.  It amazes me how many elderly seniors  are no longer cooking and if they don't drive it's worse, as they can not get to a grocery store to even buy food and are forced to rely on perhaps a long time neighbor that takes notice and offers to help. What you find they are eating is mind boggling and sad.  We all know that cold cereal, lunch meat and frozen foods just don't provide much healthy nutritional value.  If you notice that they aren't cooking much, then take the time to find a meals on wheels or a service that can deliver meals daily, even if it is one healthy meal per day.  Also, I have one customer whose daughter lives out of state, and she orders food and has it shipped straight to their home.  Remember, they don't need to be told that they are not able to take care of themselves.

2.  HOUSEKEEPING

Bending, squatting, pushing...not so easy in your 80's and 90's.  What was once an immaculate home, is now not so immaculate.  This can cause depression, embarrassment (isolation as they won't invite anyone into their home), fall hazards and quite frankly pests of the unwanted kind. If they can't afford it, then guess what?  Going out to eat for a couple can run you $40-60 dollars (on the low end), invest in your parents and hire a reputable cleaning service that comes every two weeks or once a month. Pay them an extra amount to go through the fridge every quarter, removing all expired items and have them go through the pantry 1 x every 6 months to also remove expired items.   BAGS.... yes lets talk bags, seriously I find bags of bags in just about every home I downsize plastic and paper. These bags of bags are great living conditions for roaches and silver fish, ask the housekeeper to dispose of them, 1 bag of bags is enough! 

3.  CLOTHING AND LINENS

If you think housekeeping can be an issue, lets remember they still have to do laundry and change bed sheets. Take notice, are they not changing their clothing daily? Is there clothes stained and old? How about the bed? Changing bed sheets can be extremely difficult for arthritic hands and a weak body may not be able to lift the corner of a mattress.  Ask the housekeeper to help with that, many offer to do laundry while they are cleaning and they can change bed sheets as well. Winter time, send a gift of nice flannel sheets to help them stay warm. You may even consider purchasing mattress protection covers if incontinence has become and issue. Again, you can order incontinence undergarments, and clothing online and have it shipped straight to  their home. I have another customer the periodcally goes out and purchases clothes for her father, and then disposes of the old and stained.

4.  PETS

I am huge pet lover and advocate of pets for seniors.  Dog walking can become difficult and sometimes when your having to use a walker it can be quite scary. You're already focusing on balancing yourself and the added slight pull of a dog can be intimidating. If walking is becoming difficult, then maybe you can build a small fenced in area around the back door or garage door where you parent can just let them out to do their business. I had a friend that trained her mini dog to go in litter box!  Can they or you, afford a dog walker?  There are plenty of those to pick from and some communities are even incorporating dog walkers into their communities.  Do they have a cat? Get an automatic self cleaning litter box like I have.  It's worth its weight in gold.  I have a customer that just purchased one for her parents and the new one has a counter, so you can monitor the use and know when to change the cartridge. It so easy, you just slide the used cartridge into a garbage bag and place a new one every 2-3 weeks.  No scooping, no smell and I bet the housekeeper won't even mind helping out. Having to relinquish your pet, can be as bad as the loss of a spouse. Pets are companions and they give seniors someone to care for, talk to and a purpose in life, do what you can to help them keep their friend.

5.  YARD WORK

By now, you probably already know where I am going.  Grass cutting, bush trimming is always needed but have you thought about the leaves in the fall? They are slippery and I have seen it happen, one wrong step on a hand full of leaves becomes as deadly as grenade. Down they go and the injuries can be serious.  Hire a service, chances are your parents can afford it on their own and just need a little guidance to convince them to hire one.  Help them interview a couple and make a choice together.

6.  HOUSE MAINTENANCE

If your parents have lived in their home for a long time, when is the last time anything was updated? Are the carpets stained?  What's the condition of the base of the cabinets in the kitchen and bath? Take a peek next time you go over, do you see something that needs repair?  Bring up and address any repairs needed, a small leak under a sink can cause huge damage over time.  Also, change out filters when your there to keep a/c running up to par and check the appliances. Is the refrigerator working and staying at proper temperature? When was the last time the A/C was serviced?  These are things that they may forget to do or may not be able to handle themselves.  A little help from family goes a long way.

In closing, chances are that your parents are able to afford some extra services, take some time, make a visit and see what is needed.  If you struggle every year when trying to decide what to send for Mothers day, Fathers day, Christmas and birthdays, I think we just came up with some great ideas! Please share this with everyone you know.  If you have family in the Tampa Bay area and need help to arrange for some services, contact me I am happy to help.  

Sandra