Warning Signs an Aging Parent Needs Help

Warning Signs an Aging Parent Needs Help

Dear Donna:

I will be heading home at Christmas to visit my 91-year old mother who lives in northern Michigan. I live in California so I usually only make it home once or twice a year to see her in person.

Early this summer when my kids and I went to visit, I thought she seemed a little frailer. We use Skype to chat on a regular basis and it looks to me like she’s lost weight. She keeps telling me that she is doing fine on her own and I know she has good neighbors and friends who look after her.

My mom has always seemed younger than her age because she has taken good care of herself. Because of that, I’m trying to figure out what are normal signs of aging and what aren’t. Can you give me a few suggestions on what to look for on my holiday visit home this month?


Dear Darlene:

We receive a lot of emails and phone calls from adult children asking this same question every holiday season! Parents often know how busy their adult children are with their own families and careers. They don’t want to “worry” them with what they perceive to be small problems.

What you want to look for on your visit are signs of change. To assess how an aging parent really is when you visit this holiday season, you should specifically watch for and pay attention to:

  • Unintentional weight gain or weight loss
  • Change in how well they are managing personal care
  • Bumps and bruises on their arms, legs and head that could indicate falls
  • Trouble carrying on a conversation
  • Forgetfulness or confusion
  • Change in their disposition or personality
  • Difference in how much or how little they sleep
  • Condition of their house such as odors or trash piled up
  • Problems managing finances such as unpaid bills on the counter or calls from creditors

These are just a few of the signs that may indicate your mother needs a little extra help. It might be a good idea to ask her if she has had a wellness visit with her primary care physician this year. If she hasn’t, encourage her to schedule one for the time when you are home so you can go with her.

It might also benefit you to learn more about senior care and the options available for your mother. Our Resource Center and our Blog both contain helpful information for adult children of an aging loved one.

Please let me know if you have any more questions, Darlene. I hope you and your family enjoy a happy holiday together in northern Michigan!



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Searching for Assisted Living for a Michigan Senior

Searching for Assisted Living for a Michigan Senior

Dear Donna:

During our family visit to my mother’s house in Traverse City, Michigan over the holidays, I came to the conclusion that she just isn’t safe living alone any longer. The change in her condition from last year to this year is quite dramatic. I was so shocked to see how much has changed! Mom has lost a lot of weight, her house was a mess and she is always forgetting to take her heart medications.

I know now that I need to find a senior living community in northern Michigan for her to move to this winter. I’m just not sure what to look for and where to start. Can you offer me any advice? One question I’m wondering about is whether or not I should visit some of the communities before I talk with my mom about moving.


Dear Patty:

I’m sure there are a considerable number of adult children who came to the same conclusion about their aging parent over the holidays. Many transitions to senior living communities begin at the prompting of an adult child.

Your question about when to involve your mother is one we hear quite often from families who are first beginning this search. The question is a tough one to answer because it really depends upon your personal situation.

If you think making a move is something your mother is ready for and may welcome, it is probably best to involve her right from the start. Some adult children we work with are surprised at how willing their parent is to move, especially those who have become fearful of living alone.

On the other hand if you feel your mother will be resistant, it may help to educate yourself on senior living and explore options before you tackle the topic with her. By eliminating some of the assisted living communities you know won’t work for her and narrowing the choices to those that might, you can make the process easier for her.

Here are a few factors to take in to consideration as you begin your search for care for a Michigan senior loved one:

  • What is important to them? For example, do they have a pet they won’t move without? Do they want to be close to their church or to where their grandchildren are?
  • Can a community accommodate their care needs now and in to the future? That is always a good question to ask the staff at each of the communities you talk with during your search. The last thing you want to have to do is move your mother again in a few months because she needs more care.
  • How much space will they realistically need? This can be a real sticking point for some seniors, especially if they are moving from a large home. What do they really want and need to be able to take with them when they move?
  • What type of environment will best suit their personality? Do they like to dress more formally for dinner or are they more comfortable in jeans and sneakers?
  • Will they need transportation to physician appointments and for other errands? Assisted living communities all offer different types of transportation and at different prices.

I hope this helps you get started in your search, Patty. Please feel free to call one of the Heritage Senior Living communities if you need additional advice or guidance!