It’s not easy for anyone to watch their parents grow older, and it can be even harder to know when it’s actually time to have the talk with them about their ability to remain independent. This usually starts with a conversation about Advanced Directives and the need to complete these in their state of residence, then providing a copy to their health care provider and next of kin.

This can also lead to a conversation about giving you or someone else power of attorney. Power of attorney allows a trusted family member or friend make certain medical and financial decisions on a person’s behalf in order to make sure they can receive the health care they need and that their assets are guarded. This can be crucial if your relative enters a state where they are unable to make these choices on their own. For more details, you may want to consult a lawyer.

Because power of attorney can indicate that someone is nearing the end of their independent life, seniors can often offer resistance on the subject. Though it can be challenging to approach, there are a number of signs that indicate it is likely time to have that difficult conversation:

Driving:

Several things can impact an elderly person’s ability to drive, including poor eyesight and slow reaction times. If there have been incidents—such as accidents or near-misses—it could be a sign that Mom and Dad’s driving years are at an end.

Another thing to look for is how their memory plays into driving. Are they getting lost on what should be familiar routes? Did they jump onto one highway thinking that it was another highway, and end up someplace far from where they should have been? Both of these can be a sign of dementia, and if they’re to the point where they’re getting lost, it’s time to address it.

Memory:

Besides issues with wandering and getting lost, memory issues can also manifest in other ways. Were you unable to get ahold of Mom the other day, only to find out her phone was cut off because she forgot to pay the bill? This may be a sign that her memory is interfering with her ability to remain independent. Another sign is if Mom and Dad are repeating tasks throughout the day that have already been done, such as shaving or brushing their hair. While those tasks in and of themselves are harmless, if they start doing things such as taking their medication several times a day, it could turn dangerous.

If their memory is so bad that they’re endangering themselves, it’s time to talk to them about gaining power of attorney. They could end up hurting themselves, and if their mental capacities are decreased, they may not be able to make good decisions about their care.

Falls:

Falls are the number one reason why Americans over the age of 65 become injured. A number of things can contribute to a higher rate of falls, such as poor eyesight, declining coordination and balance and a lack of muscle strength. Even if it wasn’t devastating, if Mom or Dad have taken a fall recently, it’s time to talk to them about making their home safer.

Johns Hopkins Home Care Group offers select items that can help prevent your loved ones from a fall, including walking aides, bathroom safety products and aids to daily living that allow them to stay independent longer.

For more information and resources related to these types of issues, visit Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Healthy Aging site.

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