Home A-lone(ly)?

Checking in on an elderly parent (or other seniors that you may know) routinely is so very important.  It is a monitoring system to assure their safety and a way to evaluate their potential need for additional help.  (If you would like a list of 20 signs that your parent may need help, go to my website for a free download:  www.parentcarealliance.com)

My husband and I will be making the 3 hour trek south this weekend to stay overnight and check in on my mother, who is now living alone, and my father who is living in a long-term care facility close to home.

Our visits from a distance and my siblings more regular visits from closer by play different roles in aiding my parents.  Since my siblings live more locally and get by to check in on a more regular basis, their visits are wonderful for the day-to-day oversight and making sure that everybody is safe.

My visits play a different role.  Since I am not there as frequently, I am able to observe gradual changes with a different eye.  As we all know, something like the growth of a child that you live with, while often staggering, is not as obvious in the day-to-day as it is when you have not seen that child for several months.  This is also true for changes in an aging loved ones abilities at home.

Since we stay overnight and are around for more than several hours, this also gives my mother an opportunity to talk about things in a different way than she would on a pop-in-visit.  When we have time to just sit and chat, she is more likely to talk about things at a deeper level and I am able to pick-up on things that I don’t get in a quick chat.

On a recent visit to my home she mentioned that she was not sure how much longer she should stay in her home.  I’m not sure right now what’s behind that observation but it is something that we can explore in some of those deeper conversations.

She has help with cleaning the house and has contracted for someone to handle the yard this summer.  My parents added a first floor bedroom, bathroom and laundry onto the house a number of years ago, so she can be on one floor with ease.  She still seems able to cook to meet her needs, drives in the daytime and is able to get around (using a cane much of the time).  So I need to keep digging.

Mom has always been very independent and has stated over and over again her dislike of the thought of going to an assisted living community where they ‘load you on a bus for trips and make you play bingo’.  She has always been somebody that has filled parts of her life with somewhat solitary activities, sewing, baking, playing the organ, but has also enjoyed her activities with others as well, teaching piano, being a Girl Scout leader and directing the church choir.

Maybe she is missing some of those things now.  She doesn’t have as many people around to appreciate her baking, is finding it difficult to sew much (and what does she need anyway), gave up organ playing and teaching piano a while ago and my sister and I haven’t been Girl Scouts in a very long time.

She lost one of her best friends in the past year and I think is still feeling that hole in her life.  It was a friend that she could talk to in ways that maybe she could not with anybody else.

I need to explore.  We need to talk about how she is feeling about living alone and what the things are that she is missing.  We need to see if there is anything that we can help change for her to improve her quality of life if that is what is suffering.  Of course the other side of that coin is that she has to be willing.

So, we will visit.  We’ll have coffee and chat.  I’ll listen closely to see if I can hear what concerns her.  And then, we will go from there.

On the journey with you…….Kathy

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