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Changes Caregivers Should Watch for In Mom or Dad

There’s an old saying: If your loved one forgets where they put their keys, they’re probably just distracted, stressed, overworked, or all of the above. In other words, it’s likely nothing to worry about. If they forget what their keys are for, that may be a sign that your loved one needs a little help, from assisted living to skilled nursing to memory care.

While we offer many care options at Pillars, the signs that your loved one is ready to make the move into one of our communities are rarely as cut and dried as the example of the keys. In reality, the decision to change your loved one’s living arrangements is stressful, emotional, and even guilt-inducing. It’s difficult to know if “now” is the right time. Recognizing the fact that the time has come is vital to your loved one’s care, safety, and well-being.

Of course, that process is about assessing your loved one’s needs, behavioral changes, and diminishing abilities. It might surprise you to know it’s also about you.

What is your level of caregiver stress?

According to AARP, some 16 million Americans are full- or part-time caregivers for loved ones. That role can include caring for them in your home 24/7; being on call to check on Mom and Dad or administer their pills as they continue to live on their own; or being the one who wrestles those proverbial keys away from them for the last time and having the talk about wills, wishes, finances, and final arrangements. None of it is easy. Caregiving can get overwhelming quickly, and your mental and physical health can suffer as a result.

That’s why we offer resources for caregivers to help prepare for the transition and provide support along the way. Caregiving can be a challenging experience, but it also brings special rewards and joys.

Questions Caregivers Should Ask Themselves

One dilemma that gets brought up frequently is, “When is the right time to move Mom or Dad?” We advise people who are caregivers to ask themselves several questions that serve to highlight their own state of mind, level of emotional stress, and physical health – all of which can be impacted by caregiving.

  • Is the caregiving process getting increasingly difficult for you?
  • Are you emotionally drained, exhausted, or depressed much of the time?
  • Are you physically able to get your loved one into the shower or to the bathroom?
  • Is your own health failing?
  • Do you feel you have nothing in your life except caregiving?
  • Have you set many “lines in the sand” in terms of things you just can’t deal with on your own, like incontinence, that you deal with anyway?

If any of these feel all too familiar, it may be time to explore the alternatives we offer at Pillars.

Changes to Watch For in Mom and Dad

Another facet of deciding when the time is right to move Mom or Dad is the change in their behavior that you, as their caregiver, notice.

Here are some signs we advise people to watch out for.

Early Changes and Signs

  • Are they eating? Yes, you may have them signed up for daily deliveries of Meals on Wheels. Are they eating those meals or are they accumulating in the refrigerator?
  • Are they getting out to social events with friends, church, or family get-togethers? Social isolation is another reason to look into senior living.
  • Are they taking care of their home? Maintenance-free living is a great advantage of senior living communities.
  • Have you taken away the car keys because of an incident or simply a lack of confidence in their safety to drive?
  • Do you trust that they can get to the bathroom on their own at night?
  • Have they fallen one or more times?
  • Are they repeating favorite stories over and over, more than usual?
  • Do they seem increasingly innocent and childlike?
  • Are they responsible to pay bills and take their meds on their own?
  • Are they keeping up with doctors’ appointments?

More Serious Changes and Signs

  • Do you believe their health and safety are at risk? Falling, missing medications, not getting to the bathroom in time, having to navigate stairs at home with increasing difficulty, not eating, and more all add up. If you feel they’re not safe at home, it’s time to consider your options seriously.
  • Have they been “sundowning”? Sundowner syndrome is very common. It means becoming increasingly agitated, upset, confused, or angry as the day winds down.
  • Do they wander? This can be extremely stressful for caregivers. You finally take a moment to go into the bathroom or to start dinner, and they are out the door.

How Caregivers Can Take the Next Step

If your loved ones are exhibiting these signs, or if you are feeling overwhelmed by caregiving, it’s time to seek help. Our Care Management Services is here to help when you’re facing the decision to move Mom or Dad into one of our communities. Our skilled and caring social workers can also provide you with at-home care options, like transportation, assistance with daily activities, companion care services, mental health support, and care planning.

When it’s time to consider a move to senior living where your loved one can receive the care they need, we recommend using our Assisted Living Checklist. It provides a list of what to look for when touring communities. It gives caregivers peace of mind and confidence knowing they found their loved ones a trusted and compassionate new home.