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My Parent is Slipping!

When you start noticing changes in your parent's mental or physical health, you will likely have many questions. You may even struggle with accepting or coping with the reality of the situation. I cover some ways you can begin to approach this uncomfortable situation.

When we say a parent is "slipping," we usually mean that their mental or physical health is declining.

You visit your parent and notice that something is not right. You may not be able to pinpoint exactly what is wrong right away, but eventually some clear signals will emerge.

  • He or she is having trouble communicating.

  • There is no sign of any meal preparation or even much food in the refrigerator.

  • Maybe there is damage to the car that your parent cannot explain (more about this in an upcoming issue). 

  • Perhaps there is weight loss or a marked change in physical condition.

A material change that makes you question, “What is going on here?” is a cause for concern. Such changes in your parent’s condition can spur a lot of questions, which are frequently coupled with a sense of denial.  Do not be surprised by this.  While not every person will deny that something is wrong, denial out of fear is not uncommon.

A wise first step is a physical exam.  There are often a medical reasons for material changes in lifestyle.  There could be a change in cognition, a mental health issue such as depression, an illness, or an orthopedic problem. It is hard to identify without a complete exam.
Tell your parent they need to be seen and that you will assist in setting something up.  If your parent has a family doctor it may be a good idea to start there, as they will have history with your mom or dad. Otherwise, Geriatricians are great for undefined concerns with the elderly. Offer to go along with them.  Put yourself in their shoes. If you were scared, you would want to have some help.  If your parent will allow you, go in to meet the doctor with them.  Make sure you have your concerns and observations written down so you do not forget to mention them. Your parent’s physician will likely provide insight or assist in pointing you in the right direction.  

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