Many of us Baby Boomers are part of what is know as the Sandwich Generation.  This is the generation that is busy raising children in the home and facing the reality that our parents are aging and are not as vibrant as they once were just a few years ago. Sometimes the changes in our parents are sudden like a broken hip due to a fall or a stroke. But most times, the changes are slow, and many times almost imperceptible as time marches on. It is critical to recognize the subtle warning signs, telling you that intervention may be needed. Our parents come from a generation of self-sufficiency; they are fiercely independent and will do almost anything short of asking for help to maintain that independence.  The home they have build and lived in is the center of their security, and they want to stay there. Providing the proper support system for them can actually enhance their independence, not diminish it.

What are the warning signs that should prompt a closer look by the kids? Here are some common warning signs:
1.      Missing important appointments
2.      Spoiled food that doesn’t get thrown away
3.      Unexplained bruising
4.      Stacks of unopened mail
5.      Noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care
6.      Poor diet or weight loss
7.      Changes in moods or extreme mood swings
8.      Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
9.      House cluttered and un-kept
10.    Smell of urine in the house
11.    Medication errors or omission
12.    Refrigerator and cabinets empty
13.    Getting lost
14.    Increased visits to the emergency room
15.    Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks

While a large distance between you and your parents makes it more difficult to determine if and when help is needed, you can look for some clues.  For example, listen for a change in how one parent talks about the other.  If one parent starts to express concern about the other, it could be a subtle hint that something has changed.  Maybe your Dad confides that he is concerned about your Mom because she is increasingly confused and disoriented.  Given how fiercely independent this generation is, it is important to take these comments seriously.  Alternatively, if you are concerned that something may not be all right with your parent or parents, talk with the neighbors next time you go back to visit.  Many times they will be able to provide valuable insights into how your parents are coping day-to-day.

The good news is that there are a lot of resources and options for how you can help your parents.  Next post, I’ll take you through a summary of some of these options to help you navigate the parent care landscape.  My hope is that having some information will relieve some of the pressure of being the meat in the Sandwich Generation.