Flowers are lovely, but they soon fade. Chocolates are satisfying, but they’re gone all too soon. The gift of living independently, however, is more lasting.
Spending time with your Mom on her special Sunday, offers a great opportunity to find out how she is doing living at home.
When you visit, consider: Is her home neat and clean? Is there nutritious food in the refrigerator and cabinets? Does she get around okay?
If the answer is “yes” to most of these questions, she may not need assistance, but if you notice subtle changes—she’s lost weight, the bed’s unmade, clothes and trash have piled up—it’s probably time to open a discussion about getting some assistance.
Older women are more likely to live alone than older men. And isolation poses serious health risks. So, if your Mom lives alone, ask about her friends. What have they recently done together for fun? What have they planned for the summer?
If you suspect your mother is struggling to maintain her independence, talking with her about it on the phone isn’t enough. She’ll probably insist everything is fine.
Because Mother’s Day often includes other siblings, ask yours to be more observant of Mom’s way of life, and her home. This will set the stage for later follow-up conversations. After discussing what you’ve observed, introduce the possibility of arranging support from family members, friends and a homecare provider.
Here are some tips for talking with your Mom:
- Ask if she’s still able to do the things she loves. Or are daily chores consuming too much of her time and energy?
- Ask what chores she’d rather not do anymore, such as laundry or cooking. Would it help if someone else organized her medications? Does she need assistance bathing? Doing her hair?
- Ask her if she might consider relying on a homecare agency just once or twice a week.
- Ask her if she knows how much you worry about her living alone. Explain how knowing someone is there to help her can help you too.
Many older adults feel anxious about having people come to their homes. It can help to let your Mom know homecare agencies like Life Care at Home conduct background checks on employees. They also train homecare workers in dementia care as part of job orientation and repeat training annually.
If your Mom says no to homecare, ask her to give it some more thought. You both can talk with someone at an agency to learn more. There’s no obligation.
Kathy Semrow R.N, director of Life Care at Home, a not-for-profit provider of
private in-home personal care, shares her 42 years of nursing experience.