THE SANDWICH GENERATION
Question: "My father, 86, lives alone, takes six different medicines, has lost weight in the past six months, and 'wanders.' He’s very independent, and my sister says, 'Leave him alone. This is what he wants.' Should I leave him alone?"
Answer: No. You should not leave him alone! You should aggressively intervene in your father’s daily life activities because he is at great risk both medically and mentally. If he wanders, he is also at risk at the physical level.
His weight loss and wandering are key triggers for active intervention. You should talk with his doctors to see why he is taking all of this medicine. Drugs can result in loss of appetite (hence weight loss) and confusion (hence the wandering).
If he is not eating properly because he can’t or doesn’t like to cook, take steps to make sure he has appropriate food/meals available on a regular basis.
Question: My parents (late 70s) are very independent. When I make suggestions about their doing things differently, they tell me to mind my own business. When should I insist on changes?
Answer: I don’t know what you mean by “changes.” But there are three key areas where an adult child should intervene in a parent’s life. Otherwise leave them alone. There are the top reasons people over 65 end up in hospital emergency rooms and in many cases these visits could have been prevented.
Prevent falls by safety proofing the house or apartment. Check and eliminate problems in regards to steps, carpeting, lighting, electrical wires, rugs, bathroom safety, trailing telephone wires. Put handrails in the bathroom and help them reorganize cabinets so that things they use most often are at reachable levels (without a step stool).
Make sure nutrition is appropriate. If they are not cooking on a regular basis, pack precooked food in single serving bags. They can easily microwave the food. Food poisoning is top on emergency room visit list. So, clean out the refrigerator on a regular basis. Also, get them help with shopping.
Make sure medicines are taken properly and continually monitor meds for true need. Seniors are notorious for taking too many unneeded medicines.
If parents are at risk in any of these areas, aggressive action is warranted. Even though a parent may protest, Sandwich Generationers need to take the leadership role.
Question: "My mother refuses to use light bulbs that make it easier to see or read. She’ll sit in her chair and lean over to hold a book under the light, with a 60 watt bulb. She says she can’t afford high electric bills. I’ve tried to get her to use 100 watt bulbs. She refuses."
Answer: Using 100 watt bulbs, as opposed to 60 or 75 watt ones, does not use more electricity and therefore will not cost more.
If your mother refuses to use 100 watt bulbs, you should do put them in the new 60 watt bulb cartons she may have in the closet. Few people check the bulb itself after removing it from the carton.