What are some clues that Momma may need help? When a parent or spouse starts to decline, it’s hard to know what to do. You wonder whether Momma should continue to live at home or whether she would be better off somewhere else. (“Momma” is used generically in this article, whether Mom or Dad or spouse). The bottom line is that you, one of the adult children, just wonder (1) Does Momma Need Help; AND (2) Where is the Best Place for Momma to Be?” (Download Tip Sheet linked below).
Momma has lived at home by herself ever since Dad died. It seemed that she was doing so well. Now, “all of a sudden” she is declining, right before your very eyes. Concerns of her safety continuing to be home alone begin to fill your thoughts. You find yourself worrying about her more and more. But still, you don’t want to impose your will upon her. You will find several issues discussed below that serve as clues that something different needs to be done to help Momma.
You notice that Momma’s car has several unexplained scratches, dings and minor dents in various places. You wonder whether it is safe for Momma to still be driving. This is one of the toughest “hot button” issues. Driving is often the last bastion of independence. It is a “privilege” which is not relinquished lightly. Usually, the primary determining factor of whether Momma should continue to drive is whether she is a risk to herself or others.
A caregiver told me recently that she arrived at Momma’s house to find all of the “pill bottles empty”. What happened? Momma was declining some, cognitively, at that point in time and didn’t remember what she had done with her medication. Did she take all of them or did she throw them in the trash or down the sink? Fortunately, everything turned out fine for this family. But if your Momma is having issues remembering to take medications as prescribed, it’s time for Plan B.
Another caregiver who lived about 40 miles from her Momma and only saw her on weekends, told the story of how she realized that her Momma needed help with proper nutrition. The adult child / soon to be Family Caregiver, prepared Momma’s favorite dish one weekend and left that, along with other nutritious food, in Momma’s refrigerator. The next weekend, she found all of the prepared-from-scratch, healthy meals that she had cooked and left for her Mom – untouched! After several similar instances of this, she wondered what (if anything) Mom was eating during the week. Drastically changed eating habit are one major factor in deciding that Momma may need some help at home.
You may notice that Momma is not getting out as much as normal and wonder whether she is getting enough social interaction. Is it because she doesn’t feel safe driving or is it because she is declining physically or cognitively and just doesn’t want to be around her friends.
Some Caregivers notice that their parent is no longer as stable on their feet as usual. Would you know if they were a fall risk? If Momma fell and broke a hip, how would that change her life (or yours)? This may be a great time to get a fresh set of eyes to check Momma’s home for fall hazards (like loose throw rugs, lack of grab bars in the bathroom, etc). Certain professionals, such as Life Care Planners often perform this service.
Does Momma need or want our help? If Momma still has full cognitive ability, this is the obvious place to start – ask her. After all, it is her life we are talking about! Where does she want to be and who does she want around? If she declines even more, what is the plan?
Home vs. Facility Care, what’s the Best Place?
Would she be better off somewhere else? “Outsiders” may have to come in to help if Momma stays at home. Does Momma want this? Is she O.K. with various family members coming by on a frequent basis to help with certain tasks? The “Best Place” some seniors actually prefer is an Independent Living or Assisted Living Facility where they can get the care they need and meet new friends their age.
These and other issues are some of the topics that need to be addressed at a Family Meeting. (See “Family Meeting with Momma” for some great tips on having a Family Meeting). The purpose of such as meeting is NOT to “lay down the law for Momma” or for any of the siblings. Such approaches normally backfire. This meeting should be held in a friendly setting and the only thing on the agenda is to determine what needs to be done to improve the quality of life for Momma. If Momma is still physically and cognitively able to attend, she should absolutely be there.
The issues listed above are obviously not the only issues that that may rise to the surface. These or other issues may be significant factors in your family. This meeting is very important.
It is very important for families to know what options exist when they are trying to answer the question, “Where is the Best Place for Momma to Be?” To help your family understand some of the key issues to be considered in making this decision, we have created a Making the “Where to Be” Decision for Momma Tip Sheet.
You will find insights into what factors you should consider when making a critical decision for your Loved One’s benefit.
Just know that as a caring, Caregiver Child, you are making a tremendous difference in the life of your declining parent. Thanks to you and all of the Family Caregivers for the difference you are making.