In the 2000 census, there were 35 million Americans over the age 65! We are living longer, yet are more separated from family than ever before. Baby boomers are caring for both their children and their parents in record numbers.

More and more senior living centers, nursing homes, and assistive living centers are being built to provide for the older Americans. How do you know when it’s time to talk to your parent about moving out of their home and into a safer place? When should you consider moving a parent into a nursing home or long term nursing unit? It’s not an easy decision. You need to consider your parent’s health, safety, and if they could be affecting the health and safety of others around them.

  1. When checking on your parent, always come at different times to see if they are behaving appropriately for the day, time, and weather. Many seniors become very confused as the day winds down; it’s not unusual for them to function very well in the morning but to be confused in the evening and night time.
  2. Check to see how they are dressed. Are they changing their clothes every day? Is the clothing neat, clean, and appropriate for the time, place, event, and weather? Many seniors stop changing their clothes, bathing, and combing their hair as they age. They also may begin sleeping in their clothes and wear the same outfit daily.
  3. Look in the cupboard to see what food is in the home. Is it healthy and nutritious and of good variety? Many seniors have money issues and are too embarrassed to discuss it or go shopping daily ending with a stock pile of the same foods. Are they buying food that is nutritious? Are they on a special diet?
  4. Look at the stove and cupboard areas to see if they are any burn marks on cupboards or carpets. Seniors may forget about things left on burners or microwave inappropriate containers, causing fire hazards.
  5. Check on medications to see if amount in bottles is correct. Seniors may be skimping on medications due to financial concerns or maybe taking too many or too little. Always check medications each time you visit.
  6. Check on the bills to see if they have been paid. Many seniors no longer understand how to pay bills and simply begin collecting mail. Others may begin sending checks and credit card information to everything to arrives in the mail.
  7. Check to see if the clocks have the correct time.
  8. Is the home neat and clean? Are the dishes washed and cleaned or just returned to the cupboard?
  9. Is your family member able to carry on a conversation or do they just reply with “yes” and “no”? Do they order for themselves when you go out or do they agree to have what someone else ordered? Do they answer with “I don’t know” frequently or laugh things off? These behaviors could be signs that they are unable to find the right words to communicate, or are disoriented.
  10. Look around the home. Do you see things in bizarre or inappropriate places: stored under the sink, in the oven, under furniture, etc.? Do you find alcohol or empty bottles in the home or in the trash/recycling?
  11. Does your family member frequently complain they can’t find things like car keys, hair brushes, eye glasses, etc.?

While all of us lose our car keys and eye glasses occasionally, the biggest factor is if you indicated yes to most of the other questions! Answering yes to the majority of these questions indicates that it is time to begin searching for placement for your family member to protect them. Falls, fires, accidental poisoning from medication or foods, and the inability to make safe decisions all affect the health, safety, and potential longevity of your family member’s life and financial stability. We must protect our family members as they age if they are unable to care for themselves. Making a choice to place a family member in a care facility may not be easy, but to fully care for them we may need to step forward and make that difficult decision.