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The Warning Signs
One day it hits you: Mom or Dad are "failing."
It's not a medical diagnosis. It's simply what enters your brain when you quietly notice that the folks seem increasingly forgetful. Or you observe that they are having a harder time navigating; or, that their grooming is a little off and the house is a lot less tidy. While your parents do not appear to be in any imminent danger, your mind begins to race.
Should you call a doctor?
Move into their house?
Enroll them in a nursing home?
If you're the son or daughter who lives closest, the onus may be on you to take charge. So, what should you do? Absent any real danger, you might simply decide to watch the situation more closely; visit more often; even record your findings.
Move forward several weeks. After finding moldy food in the refrigerator, uncashed checks and unpaid bills--things out of character for your parents--your suspicions are confirmed. Now, what? Your parents haven't you for help--their need is unspoken--but clearly some level of intervention seems appropriate even if they're still capable of living alone.
A good next step would be to discuss the situation with your parents' doctor.
Upon examination, a physician may be able to discover a treatable organic problem; perhaps a course of exercise or medication is in order. This would, of course, be a terrific outcome. As we all know, however, there's no pill for just getting old. Sometimes a physician can only confirm a family's suspicions. In any event, a thorough physical examination is always a good starting point in helping a parent(s) age successfully.
Age Proof the Home
If Mom or Dad are slowing down but not in any immediate danger, now would be good to start age-proofing their home. Eliminate trip and fall hazards like throw rugs near steps, potted plants, etc. Install safety devices like grab bars and night lights. These are simple but important precautions and good first steps.
Arrange Power of Attorney
Having a power of attorney can make lots of things easier down the road. Arrange it before it's too late.