My Mom was an independent and strong woman, but she had Parkinson's. When she had a kitchen fire in her home while outside gardening, our whole lives changed. For a long time my family tag-teamed to cover her needs. Eventually, as her illness progressed, it got to be too much and we realized she would have to move. Staying in a house had become too much of a challenge for her, and for us.
Even if your parent (or parents or siblings) enjoy great health, there are still several things that should be reviewed from time to time.
Style and Location of the House
If the property is a suburban single story single family house, chances are your loved ones will be able to manage well especially if they live close to amenities like groceries and medical facilities. If it is a town house (or row house), are your loved ones easily able to manage getting from the front to the back of the house? Are they dragging the lawn mower through the house to get all the yard work done?
If you are a close family and live in the same city, then chances are you can assist your loved ones if they need your help. If they are getting on in years and live in a different city or state, have a trusted person check on them to make sure that they are OK. If you are concerned about their well being, it may be time to live closer to each other.
There are several architectural features that may make living in a house difficult. Some can be easily attended to with minimal cost. Other features may be (or become) a greater concern.
Seniors 65 years old and up have a 25 percent chance of dying within six months to a year if they fall and break a hip.
Do your loved ones live in a house with a second story or basement? Ask them if they are having difficulty on the staircase or if they have a fear of falling. Have you noticed if they are avoiding the upstairs bedroom in favor of the sofa on the main floor?
If both your parents live in the same house, are they equally mobile, or is one parent often left alone on a particular floor?
This issue may be easily resolved by rearranging the furniture or installing one of those stair lift systems.
It may also be time to look for more suitable accommodations.
More than one in three seniors over age 65 fall each year, and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) says 80 percent of these falls are in the bathroom.
If you have greater concerns about your loved ones’ mobility, you may wish to consider installing a modern walk in tub. Just remember that they will have to sit in there until the water completely drains out, so make sure to install a rack for towels and robes!
Wet tile can be very precarious. Grout can help people from slipping, but if your loved ones’ have a seamless tile floor, it may be time for some anti-slip rugs, too.
Does your parents’ garden still look as beautiful as you remember from childhood, or has it become overgrown and unmanageable? Your parent’s once favorite pastime may have become too difficult for them. If all else is well in the house, consider hiring them a gardener so that they can continue to enjoy their garden. Their neighbors will appreciate that, too!
The Condition of The House
The Overall Appearance
Is the house relatively clean? Are there unpleasant odors indicating that hygiene may be a problem? Are there pests such as cockroaches or rodents? If you suspect any of these problems, it may be time to sit down and speak with your loved ones about their living conditions.
Is it clean and is there food in the fridge? Is it full of garbage? Are the counters and floors dirty? Is the kitchen full of dirty dishes every time you visit? This may be a sign of something as simple as a broken dish washer that can easily be replaced. Or it may be a sign that your loved ones may no longer be able to keep up with house work.
In addition, check for signs of smoke or fire. While it is possible for anyone to have a cooking incident, repeated or extensive indication of kitchen fires may be a sign of bigger trouble. If your family member has become forgetful while cooking, they may become a danger to themselves and others.
Have you toured the house to check on the general cleanliness? Do your loved ones sleep on clean sheets, and wear clean clothes? If not, are the appliances working or are they unable to manage the laundry?
Do they have a clean, clear space to eat a meal? A comfortable place to sit and relax?
Often people don’t realize how much their living conditions have changed because it happens gradually over time.
Are there stacks of news papers or magazines from the last decade? If the garbage is not being put out regularly, please ask your loved ones why. Have they become forgetful? Do they know what day it is and when garbage day occurs? Cramped dirty conditions may be a sign of health issues. Take the time to find out the root of the problem and get your loved ones the necessary help.
Health and behavior
Medication and Illness
Is their house bright and cheery, or have they closed all the blinds and drapes to live in a dark dreary space? Do you often find them in bed? This may be a sigh of depression and can become more sever over time.
It may be hard for a child or sibling to face, but are your loved ones showing signs of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s? If your parents live in a northern climate, evaluate any risk of wandering outside during the winter. Same issue for any parent in the south for the summer. Everyone has seen those sad news stories of family members who have gone out in extreme climates.
Do your parents suddenly have a large number of pets? This too may be a sign of loneliness or poor judgement -- especially if their own health is suffering in favor of care and food for the animals.
During your visit did you come across an unusual number of new magazine subscriptions or collectables? This could indicate that your loved ones have become vulnerable to telemarketers. This behavior may escalate and open them up to speaking with real scammers who could empty bank accounts!
If you are concerned about one or two of these issues, then it may be enough to spend more time with your loved ones to ensure their well being and happiness. If that is not an option because of distance or other commitments, perhaps the family can agree to hire a care giver to give the support your family member deserves.
If, however you come to believe your loved ones need an increased level of support, or a change in environment for their own safety, it may be time for them to sell their house and move to an assisted living community.
These communities can provide great relief for the whole family. There can be some level of medical staff on site. Medication is supervised. Meals and recreational activities are provided. Common areas, grounds rooms and linens are maintained. There is companionship from people of the same age group and possibly even with similar interests.
For your peace of mind, you may wish to take the time to discuss and learn what would be best for your loved ones’ health and dignity.
If your family comes to the decision that it would be best for them to sell, then this can do this in one of two ways. It is possible to renovate, de-clutter and clean to put their house on the open market until a buyer comes along. The house can also be sold “as is” to resolve the situation quickly.
Next week we will take a look at more ways of preparing your house for sale.
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And I really look forward to getting into more great stuff in future posts -- so that you can
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Preventing Senior Falls Starts in the Bathroom
Assessing the Risk of Living at Home - HELPING FAMILY & FRIENDS