As our parents get older, they start losing basic functionalities. These changes may be subtle and gradual at first, but then they progress and become more severe. You may find yourself with a very important question one day. Can mom continue running her life and living in her current environment, or would she be better off in an assisted living home?
This is an uncomfortable subject. I agree. Nobody’s parents are getting younger. Here is a condensed checklist you can use after every visit to mom’s home. Track mom’s changes over time. As she starts showing more signs of old age, document them on this checklist. Print multiple copies and keep them in your car.
Some behavior will not seem severe. If the only symptom is forgetting an appointment, that is not alarming. If she forgets how to cook, what her most recent meal was, or how to go to the bathroom, these are warning signs that she may need an assisted living environment. These symptoms are too severe to ignore. Her health and safety are in jeopardy. You may have to have a very serious talk. Documenting symptoms over time can help you make the case to mom and her loved ones that mom needs to live somewhere safe. It is time to look for an assisted living home.
- Getting stuck on a word or a phrase. Insignificant or important? If this happens once a day, it is probably insignificant. If it happens once an hour, or more, it could me an important indicator. Mom is losing basic lingual skills. She is losing the ability to say she needs, water, needs to go to the bathroom or is not feeling well. This could be a big warning sign.
- Getting stuck on an activity. Insignificant or important? Let’s take darning socks as an example. If mom spends an hour darning a hole in some socks, this could be a warning sign. Most folks can darn a hole in five minutes. Becoming overly compulsive is a warning sign that she did not see that activity concluding. She keeps doing it. She does not comprehend that at some point, the task will be complete.
- Pacing. When mom gets preoccupied on a task, she gets “caught in a loop.” It happens to us all. We focus intently on a task and forget everything else. If it happens once a month, it is no big deal. If it happens once an hour or more often than you can remember, it could be a warning. She is unable to transition from the one task to another.
- Losing the sense of time and year. This indicates a sense of being lost. Forgetting the year…is very scary. It may be the most obvious sign that mom cannot keep track of life’s important details. She forgets the year. Will she remember to cook meals and eat regularly? Will she remember to turn off the gas stove after boiling some eggs? Will she remember to lock the doors at night? Losing the sense of time and year…are indicators of something much more foundational and severe.
- Forgetting the President’s name. Regardless of who she voted for, she has to understand today’s news. This shows a general awareness of the modern day. As I write this, our President is visiting Europe. Does she know where he is? Does she remember his name?
Nobody’s parents are getting younger. They’re all getting older. Their bodies are not as able to keep track of details and keep them safe from harm. When mom’s basic awareness starts to degrade, it becomes more important for you to monitor and then act, when it becomes necessary.
This is for mom’s primary care physician. You may have to have a very serious talk with your mom and her primary care physician. Documenting symptoms and communicating these concerns to your mom’s primary care physician can help make the case to mom and her loved ones that mom needs to live somewhere safer. Mom’s primary care physician can use the How was mom doing today checklist, plus the Physician’s Report at Physician’s Report for RCFE, when making his assessment. The checklist can help mom’s primary care physician determine if it is time to look for an assisted living home.
Vixcent Villaluna of Lakewood Villa (http://lakewoodvillacarehome.com/assisted-living-in-sacramento/) contributed to this article. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. You are an adult. You are responsible for your decisions.