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   When the Parent Becomes the Child

There comes a time in the adult lives of children and their parents when it dawns on you that you might have to step in and begin having a more active role in your parentís lives, not as a child but as a caregiver. For most families, that time seems to come as a shock. 

Itís strange because we all see reports on television about the transition that we go through when the parent becomes the dependent one and the child becomes the boss in the relationship. And the hardest part of that transition may be the first time you have to step in and ďstage an interventionĒ because there is an area of life that your parent needs to let go of and you know they wonít want to. So what are the signs that it's time to step in and suggest or directly take action to make that change in your parents lives?

When it comes to driving, your dad or momís doctor will be able to help by determining if your parent is physically able to drive any more. When the senior citizenís eyesight dims to where he or she cannot distinguish details in the distance or when depth perception is poor so he might not be able to judge where the intersection is or if he is stopped at the stoplight or in the middle of the intersection, the time is right for Grandpa to give up the keys and let someone else do the driving.

The time to start the process of moving mom or dad out of their own home and into an assisted living facility may be more tricky to determine. As with driving, the senior citizen will mount every effort to appear to be competent to continue to live independently. That ability to live on our own, go where we want when we want to and take care of our own needs is so fundamental to who we are and to our self esteem that this transition from living on their own to living where everything is done for them is emotionally difficult to be sure.

So you as family members and as the caregiver for your parent need to watch for the signs that your parentís ability to take care of the house and of themselves living independently has come. Some of the symptoms of the need for change areÖ

- How is your mom or dadís health holding up? Are they eating well? Check the pantry and the refrigerator. Is it full of good things to eat, fresh foods and lots of supplies for cooking or is it sparse showing that going to the grocery store is a trial for your parent?
- Are your parents taking care of themselves? When you come over, do they look like they are sleeping ok? Are they groomed and clean and are their clothes clean and ready to use or is everything wrinkled because it's too hard to do the laundry and press shirts and blouses?
- How does the house look? Is it in good repair? Is it picked up and the kitchen clean with everything put away? If mom was always meticulous about her kitchen and now itís always a mess, she is having trouble keeping up with the housework.
- Does mom or dad stay home all the time? If they were normally outgoing and always up for a car trip, an outing to church or even just the grocery store or even an adventure, becoming a homebody signals that they donít want to go through the trouble of getting fixed up to go out.

Of all these symptoms, probably the one that signals the time to step in and take action is immediate is if your elderly parent falls or goes to the floor and then cannot get up. If your mom or dad has to pass the night on the living room floor because they could not get up and had to sleep there until someone showed up to help them, thatís an emergency situation that calls for immediate action.

Talk to your elderly parent about the risks of living alone, particularly in a scary thing like being unable to get up. By the time such a frightening incident happens, your parent may be suspecting the time to go somewhere that they can live with greater security and safety is here.