Amy bigger picBy Amy Rowan

Options Counselor

Region 10 – Area Agency on Aging

As an Options Counselor, I get calls frequently from family members who live out of town; they are in for a visit to see mom and dad. Most often, the kids call mom and dad daily or a couple times a week, but they have not seen them in months or even years. Talking on the phone, their parents sound good. The perception is they are eating, shopping, cooking, and getting along just fine.

Most of the time the callers are in Crisis Mode; the kids come in, there is spoiled food, dirty laundry, the yard is full of weeds, the mail is piled up, their parents most often have lost weight and there often times will be bruises and skin tears on their arms. When you bring up the subject with the parents, you hear, “Everything is fine. There’s no need to worry.”

The first assumption is mom needs to go to the nursing home, which, most of the time, is not the case.

Admitting they need help would mean they can’t take care of themselves anymore, and no one wants to lose their independence. Denial is the unrealistic hope that a problem is not really happening and will go away by itself. Admitting they need help and accepting assistance is not easy for people as they age. It represents a loss of independence. Denial plays a major role – and signs get ignored.

The burden often falls on the family to recognize the signs that an aging parent might need help with daily living tasks.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your loved one has to go to assisted living or a nursing home, but they may need some extra help in their home. If they’re not willing to admit it, how do you know if your elderly parent needs home care?

Signs that may indicate your parent needs help at home:

  • Spoiled food that doesn’t get thrown away
  • Missing important appointments
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Trouble getting up from a seated position
  • Difficulty with walking, balance and mobility
  • Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
  • Forgetfulness
  • Unpleasant body odor
  • Infrequent showering or bathing
  • Strong smell of urine in the house
  • Noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care
  • Dirty house, extreme clutter and dirty laundry piling up
  • Stacks of unopened mail or an overflowing mailbox
  • Late payment notices, bounced checks and calls from bill collectors
  • Poor diet or weight loss
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
  • Forgetting to take medications – or taking more than the prescribed dosage

There are many programs in our community that can assist senior in remaining in their home safely. A lot of times there are simple solutions:

  • Have an agency come in 1-2 times per week for over site, housekeeping, meal prep and personal care.  Get Meals on Wheels put into place.
  • Long Term Care Medicaid through your Health and Human Single Entry Point or PACE All Inclusive Care for the Elderly are options to get extra help in the home and with oversight.
  • You can privately pay for services homemaking, such as meal prep and oversight with a local Homecare Agency.
  • Families that live out of town often send gifts. Instead of gifts, buy homemaking hours.
  • Get a Life Alert System in place.
  • The Older Americans Act provides funding with the Area Agency on Aging to provide homemaking, personal care, and caregiver support.
  • Register with the local Senior Transportation System (All-Points Transit).
  • Hire someone to take care of the lawn.
  • Call your local Area Agency on Aging and speak to an Options Counselor to find out what support services and benefits are available. Call Region 10 at (970) 249-2436.

A few added supports can go a long way to help your parents stay living in their own home.


This column is a part of the “Getting On and Beyond” editorial series that appears in the Montrose Daily Press