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Parents Headed for Trouble?

When you first suspect that your aging parents may be experiencing health or mobility issues, it can come as a shock both to you and to them.  Knowing some warning signs and steps to take can help you all prepare to handle the changes that are coming.

Many seniors can still manage the activities of daily living with little or no assistance.  But advancing age can mean that some will need help with housekeeping, home maintenance, and transportation. Others may need more attention because of acute or chronic health problems.

The PARENT acronym may help draw your attention to how your parents are functioning in their everyday lives.

P  hysical. Do Mom or Dad still have enough energy for daily activities? Have you noticed any changes in their gait or balance? Weight loss?

A  ppearance. In particular, notice hygiene. If Dad was always a sharp dresser, but his tie is now stained with soup, his vision could be affected - or he might be having more serious problems that need medical attention.

R ambling.  People at any age can ramble in conversation. But if you notice that your mother is not making sense, or your dad loses track easily during a chat, it could be an early warning sign of depression, reaction to medications, or other serious disorders, such as dementia.

E nvironment. When you visit, note whether the house is as clean or tidy as usual. Is there food in the fridge and cupboard?  Often, these are signals that our parents are not as well as they were, or are having trouble coping with housekeeping and cooking.

N = eNgaged.  Are your parents still pursuing their favorite activities and attending church or social functions?  If not, this observation may be a great opening to a conversation about their daily lives and what you both may be noticing. 

T  ransportation. Are your parents able to get around easily? If they are not driving, are public transport or other options available to get them where they want or need to go? Taking a drive with them gives you a chance to notice their reflexes, and how they handle parking and traffic in general. This is a sensitive topic, so you may want to seek advice on how to approach the subject.

Here are three things you can do if you notice concerns, along with links to ElderWise resources for more information:

  1. Start a conversation:  Sensitive Conversations
  2. Talk to the doctor: Talking ToYour Parents' Doctor
  3. Educate yourself on specific issues: Aging and Memory: Senior Moments? , Safety for Older Drivers

    For a more extensive overview of aging-related issues, consult our all-Canadian reference, "Your Aging Parents" or contact us to learn more about our family coaching and consulting service.

Adapted  from "Boomers and their aging parents" by Maureen Osis in Expert Women who Speak - Speak Out. (Vol.  3), 2003

Vol. 4, No. 8
� ElderWise Publishing 2008.
You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement:

Originally published by ElderWise Publishing, a division of ElderWise Inc., Canada's "go to" place for families with aging parents, who want clear, concise and timely information about health, housing and relationships. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.






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