You may have successfully navigated the distance between you and a senior loved one for years, but as they get older, that distance can seem magnified by your increasing concern for their well-being. Seniors are notorious for their reluctance to ask for help, and since the distance prevents daily visits, it’s incumbent upon you to find signs that they might need some additional care, and then what to do about it. It may eventually require uprooting your own life to be closer to them, but meanwhile, just observing and tracking some changes can help you coordinate the timing to make the transition as easy as possible – for both of you.
Identify your “scouts”
There is only so much a telephone call will tell you; you may detect a certain “something” in your loved one’s voice, but they may easily explain it away: “Nothing’s wrong, I just woke up from a nap so I probably sound a little sluggish,” or even get defensive: “Why are you being so overprotective? I’m perfectly capable of living on my own.” You have to judiciously voice any concerns to keep the line of communication open.
Fortunately, technology is on your side. One of the upsides of the 2020 pandemic was an increase in videoconferencing for personal use, even among seniors. Mobile apps give seniors one-touch video access to loved ones. Use those calls to observe not just any physical changes in your loved one, such as weight loss or an uncharacteristically unkempt appearance, but also how they move.
Videoconferencing also allows you to observe their surroundings. If your loved one typically keeps a neat home, for example, an accumulation of clutter could be a sign of mobility issues or depression. If you can do so without raising suspicion, think of a way to get your loved one to walk through their living area with the video so you can get views of other rooms; you might comment that you’d like to see how their flower bed turned out this season, for example.
If you are already approved to speak to your loved one’s physician, contact them with any concerns or to get updates on your senior’s health. You can also enlist the help of neighbors and family friends who live close by. Remember, too, that the U.S. Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) have a “Carrier Alert” program for participating seniors. If they notice mail piling up they are authorized to notify a social services agency about a possible concern in your loved one’s household. Be sure to help your senior register for this program.
At some point, you may decide it’s inevitable that a change needs to happen with your senior’s living situation, and the transition will be easier and less traumatic – for both of you – if you live nearby. Couching your move as simply a desire to be closer to them can mitigate any worry they have that you are going there solely to uproot them from their home, or to move in with them and jeopardize their independence.
The earlier you start your moving process, the less stressful it will be, particularly if you need to sell your current home and purchase a new one. Getting pre-approved for your new mortgage will streamline your new home search, as you can feel confident about making an offer that you can afford, and having the mortgage approval process behind you is a boon to sellers looking for a hassle-free close.
Once you are in closer proximity with your senior loved one, you can better assess the living situation. Having a conversation about changes you can make to help your senior age in place can defuse concerns that you are there to convince your loved one to move into a care facility. As you’re discussing those changes, include ongoing maintenance to the home, and the benefits of hiring a professional. Preventative maintenance not only wards off costly future repairs, but can also save money on things like utilities. For example, if your loved one’s windows need weatherproofing, repairs, or upgrading, search online for “double pane window repair near me.” You can easily read online reviews and then request a quote from an insured and licensed professional with a track record of satisfied customers. For your budgeting purposes, the average cost of a window repair is $290, but this will depend on what you need. This cost can easily be offset by what you will save in heating and cooling bills.
One day at a time
Once you are closer to your senior loved one, you can both ease into the conversation about when and if your loved one’s living situation needs to change. If you are able to help them in their current home, that decision could be years away. Regardless, having them fully participate in the process can make it their decision, instead of them feeling as though their dignity is slipping away by needing to ask for help.
You can find more helpful articles like this at PsychHealing Counseling Center.