Taking Care of Aging Parents: What You Can’t Tell In A Weekly Phone Call Or Visit With An Elderly Loved One
Aging parents are not always docile when adult children attempt to assess their conditions and provide the appropriate level of care!
I say this with all love, respect and affection. Let’s face it, as children we pretty much spend every day and for many years just about every moment with our parents. Then, we get launched into our lives and we visit our parents on occasions.
If you decide to stay in the same geographic location as your parents, you may have more regular visits, but not necessarily long visits. Age sneaks up on us humans so quietly that we sometimes forget that we have become “elderly.” And, unlike children who have no concept of pride, reputation and other emotions that we grow to cultivate in order to make others see us as strong and capable, elderly adults have a lifetime of self-protective concepts they can and do attempt to hide behind.
I Hear Stories About Subtle Behavior Changes Constantly
To illustrate this point, I share the following told to me by a friend who was concerned about her mother who lives about an hour away from where she lives. My friend visits her mother regularly about every other month. She makes sure that she speaks to her more frequently, though that is only about once a month. Her mother has lived alone since the death of her father several years ago. The mother was the father’s caregiver, so is considerably capable and independent. As my friend related to me, her mother mourned the loss of her husband for about two years. Then she got on with her life. She became actively involved in her church and even took a trip to Alaska. One thing seemed a little out of the ordinary, but nothing serious. Eventually, my friend’s mother stopped driving on highways, sticking to local roads when she went out.
According to my friend, her mother was doing so well that they decided to take an extended vacation together. After a few days of being together 24/7, my friend noticed that her mother was experiencing serious cognitive decline. She had never noticed any of this behavior prior during their frequent phone calls and visits. My friend told me her mother experienced hallucinations, she lost words, fell frequently causing her to become frustrated and embarrassed.
Impossible To Assess Accurately In Short Periods Of Time
My friend was confused about what appeared to be a quick and significant decline in her mother’s abilities. What the story taught me is that you cannot accurately assess the condition of your aging parent or loved one during a monthly, weekly or even a daily phone call or visit. When an aging adult is in his or her own home, an environment where they feel safe and have a routine, they can appear to be ‘just fine.’
The point of sharing this story is to encourage caregivers to spend more time out of the comfort of your aging parent’s environment together. This type of activity could help you decide to have important conversations sooner rather than later.