Senior Series- Warning Signs That Independent Living is no Longer Safe

Watching your mom & dad age can be difficult. The realization that living independently may no longer be a choice for them can be heartbreaking for all involved.  What are some warning signs that they may need assistance?

 

  1. Bruising

       Your parent may not be telling they are experiencing more falls, but their  skin may show signs of it.  Older skin bruises more easily and may show signs that they are bumping into things, becoming increasingly unsteady or falling.

  1. Food Crisis

Is there outdated food in the fridge or on the pantry shelf?  Or is there not enough food on the shelves to sustain life? The elder person may not be able to shop or cook or clean like they once did.

  1. Unpaid bills

Are you noticing stacks of mail where there was once complete organization? Your parents may not be able to tend to paperwork and bills due to a multitude of reasons- poor vision, declining memory or depression.

  1. Odor

Is your parent having difficulty with hygiene or a health issue that is causing an odor?  Remember that decrease in the ability to smell is part of the aging process.  Or is it that they are unable to keep up with cleaning of their home?

  1. Overall Messiness in Home

Are you noticing more piles?  Piles of magazines, clothes, undone laundry?  Maybe your parent is having more difficulty moving around and therefore regular household chores become difficult.  

 

What should you do if you are noticing these signs?  

  1. Have someone other than you assess the situation.  A medical check up may be necessary.  A physician can do both a physical and mental examination.  Don’t forget to have eyes and ears checked as well.  
  2. In Wisconsin every county has an Aging and Disability Resource Center-ADRC.  They are a wealth of information.  They can do a general assessment of the senior and their needs and then make recommendations for services.  Keep in mind not all services come with a cost.
  3. Let your parent know that you don’t want to intrude but you are genuinely concerned for their health and safety and want to help them fInd solutions that help them stay in their home longer and remain safe.  
  4. Start the discussion EARLY of what the future may look like. Discuss what their wishes are when it is necessary for them to move into a different living situation.  

Senior Series- How to Play and Share Nicely With Family

Supporting aging parents and making decisions regarding changing housing and independence needs can challenge the closest of families.  Here are some tips that can help make your families stronger and avoid stress.

It’s their Life

If your parent is still considered legally competent it is still their life and their decision.  Your role is to assist them in achieving their goals while keeping them safe.

Your family members are not your enemies

You may have a strained relationship with certain family members.  Remember, just like you, they are trying to do what they feel is right for the parent/s.  Even if you don’t agree with their position you must learn to come to an understanding that is best for your parent.

Love and Respect

Speak to and treat each other respectfully.  It is easy to fall into old family roles, behaviors and communicating styles.  Remember to be attentive, listen for understanding, don’t interrupt and tone of voice does matter.   Opening a productive dialog is the goal…not being right.

They are not Crazy Because They React Differently

Stress causes people to react differently.  Some people withdraw, some become angry, other become sad while others will try to take charge and “fix” it.  Acknowledge the stress and agree to work together.

Save the Drama for the Stage

Gossiping or complaining about family that is not present will usually end up causing more stress and family drama.   Go back to number 3- speak respectfully about that person and to that person.  If you have an issue address it with that person in person.  NO TEXTS PLEASE

Who’s in Charge?

Someone should be in charge if mom and dad aren’t capable of making their own decisions.  The best-case scenario is the senior chooses that person before they become incapable.  If not as a group you may need to choose a leader.  Once designated that person has the final say.  You can express your opinion, but realize this is an incredibly difficult role and respect their willingness to accept it.  

Late To The Party?

If you come after the process has started due to personal or geographical reasons don’t come ready to “save the world”.  Those who have already put in the work, have seen the situation unfold and made difficult decisions need your support not the list of what they have done wrong according to you.   If you feel guilty for your lack of participation, own it and work out those issues on your own time, privately.  

Pick Your Battles

Ask yourself is it really a hill to die on?  99% is most likely not. Determine what’s really important to you and support your family member’s decisions on those things that aren’t extremely important to you.

Who are the players?

Numerous people may have ideas, but who are the players in this situation?  If you are a family member by marriage, realize your primary role (usually) is to support and comfort your spouse and other family members, not to participate in decisions.  

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

This is not an easy process.  Keep your focus on the end goal, what is best for your mom and/or dad.

Let’s Trade Backpacks

 

Recently I was on a trip with my adult son.  We had just started our walking adventure in an unknown city both carrying backpacks.  Almost immediately he realized my backpack was heavier than his, so he offered to switch packs with me.  He offered to carry my load because he knew he was better equipped physically to make the journey.  

Selling a home can feel a lot like carrying around a backpack that is too heavy; traversing a path you are not familiar with.  Assisting your parent sell their home can feel like you are carrying 2 oversized backpacks.  

I can as a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES), in a number of ways, carry your pack through the process.  It might be tempting to sell the home on your own, to save the commission.  I understand, I like to save money where I can as well.  But keep in mind all the “stuff” that is in the “backpack” when you are selling a home.  

Emotions

If you are selling the family home you will find not only is the home filled with more possessions than you remembered, but there is way more emotion tied to it than you ever realized.  Everyone has different memories of the home and they can be expressed in all sorts of ways. Emotions are often the reason it takes longer for the senior to get the home on the market.  I can provide a sounding board for the emotions while still pointing everyone in the right direction.  

Marketing

Marketing homes for sale has changed significantly over the past 40 years.  If your parent has owned their home for more than 10 years they may not have a full grasp on what it looks like now.  When they purchased their home HGTV was not around, print advertising was an effective way of marketing a home and open houses were the first chance buyers had to see the inside.  Now staging and good photos on-line are probably the most effective marketing tools.

Repairs or Remodel

Seniors often are resistant to making changes in their home to make it marketable.  They don’t want to de-clutter, tear down wallpaper and stage the home for sale.  This is a great time to let me carry your backpack.   I can look at the situation with objectivity and come up with a reasonable time frame for having the home ready to put on the market.  Let me be the “bad cop” in this situation.  I can explain what needs to done and why making the changes can add money to the bottom line.  

Showings

Showings for a senior can be difficult.  If the senior is not able to drive anymore leaving the house for a showing can be impossible.  As a SRES I understand this and have multiple suggestions for working through this.  

Legal

Selling a home is no longer a handshake deal.  A standard offer to purchase in the State of Wisconsin is typically around 20-26 pages of legal ease.  There are home inspections, radon tests, appraisals, financing contingencies, contingent of home sale buyers and seller concessions.

Walking through the aging process with your parent is difficult.  If you remember my son and I switched backpacks.  I still had to carry one, so will you.  There are numerous situations you will need to deal with throughout the process of selling, but hopefully I can lighten the load during this stressful time.