How to Decide Your Parent Needs Nursing Home Care

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Having the nursing home conversation with your parent is never easy. You are worried about his safety; he is unwilling to give up his independence. You'll feel more comfortable making your decision, however, if you first do your homework: Assess your parent's abilities, ask the advice of a geriatric specialist and check into community services that might allow him to live at home a little longer.

Neglect of Personal Care

Watch for signs that your parent is ignoring his personal care. He may no longer bathe or wash his hair regularly, for example.

Pay attention to how your parent is dressed when you visit. She may stay in her pajamas all day or wear clothing stained with urine and feces due to incontinence.

Check the refrigerator and cupboards for fresh, nutritious food. An inadequate diet often causes weight loss in the elderly.

Mental Health Concerns

Check medications to be sure prescriptions are current. Count the pills in each bottle to find out if your parent is taking them regularly and in the right dosage. Some older people forget to take their medications altogether, or they take extra doses because they have forgotten they took them earlier.

Watch for signs of confusion, depression and increased isolation from friends. It's not uncommon for older people to let their worlds get smaller by neglecting friendships.

Offer to help your parent pay and mail his bills. As you do the paperwork, check for overdue notices, late fees and other indications that he is unable to handle his finances.

Physical Health Concerns

Watch for an increase in the number of falls your parent takes. Ask about bruises and cuts that might indicate an accident.

Watch for signs of bed sores, also called pressure ulcers. An elderly person does not have to be bedridden to develop these sores. Sitting for long periods of time, coupled with their thinner skin, can cause ulcers on pressure points. Left untreated, these ulcers may lead to fatal infections.

Check the house for signs that housekeeping has become too difficult or that small repairs are not taken care of anymore.

Ask yourself how capable your parent would be in an emergency, such as a broken plumbing line, a long-term power outage or a major blizzard or ice storm.

Assess your parent's driving ability and her ability to get around with public transportation.

Professional Help Options

Take your parent to a doctor, preferably a geriatric specialist, for a full health evaluation, including screenings for depression and dementia. The exam should also test his strength to carry out everyday self-care. It's important for you to be part of the conversation because some elderly parents deny they are having problems caring for themselves.

Find out about community services. Your parent might be able to stay in her home a little longer if Meals on Wheels can be delivered, for example, or if volunteers can stop by for visits and to help with light housekeeping. Ask about area adult day care programs for socialization opportunities.

Hire a home health aide to care for your parent during the day or on a live-in basis.