Is Mom or Dad Safe at Home?

safetymemeI had two parents that were living at home, but my siblings and I worried for their safety. We weren’t as worried about falls in the home, but were more concerned over fraud after a predatory home repair company got them to sign an agreement for a gutter repair to the tune of $5,200. We also didn’t think they were safe on the road anymore given the amount of dents and dings that were appearing on their cars.

What I recognize now is that kids think “safety” and our parents think more in terms of quality of life. As their health might be failing, the last thing they want to give up are those things they can control.

Some of the key indicators to be watchful for include:

  • Weight gain or weight loss because they forget to eat, or can’t make healthy meals and maybe eating out more.
  • A change in their hygiene or dressing habits. My parents started wearing the same clothes day after day which was a change in their usual habits.
  • Withdrawing from their regular activities and connections with friends and family.
  • Frequent falls.

  • Missed appointments.
  • Unpaid bills and services being cut-off.
  • Mess and clutter in a home that used to be spotless.

Several of the issues might come down to your parent having trouble managing their medications. Are they taking them properly, if at all? In our area, there is a pharmacy that packages medication in packets that come on a roll and include the date and time they should be taken. It’s easy to identify when a packet is skipped.

Will they accept help in the home? Some home care assistance companies have individuals that can help with cooking, light housekeeping, and even laundry. When my parents refused, I tried to step in and fill all these gaps. Looking back, while I did it out of love and respect, I also in some ways enabled them to live very unsafely longer.

Life Care Managers are also helpful when it comes to getting on top of a medical concern and finding good resources to address failing health issues.

Have they given up the car keys and don’t want to ask for help getting rides? Several home care agencies have driving employees that can help get mom or dad to the grocery, visit a museum, or even just get a ride to their bridge group if no one is able to give them a ride.

When it comes to concerns with managing money, Daily Money Managers can help protect against fraud and scams, and make sure bills are getting paid on time.

For many, there is a negative reaction to moving into a life care community. Have you scheduled appointments and gone to visit ones near their home so they can see that there are many independent and vibrant options? The first step can be to select an option of their choosing. For several clients, I let them know that if they should ever need rehabilitation or skilled nursing, these communities have better options than the open bed you will find after an emergency visit to the hospital. It’s better to get on the wait list at a community you like, but NEVER need to use. You can get your deposit back if you never permanently move in.

For those that are living alone, you can also find services for wearable devices that either call for help if the wearer falls (it can sense a fall and call the user from the pendant to ask how they are doing), or that has a “push-button” option to call for help.

There are MANY single older adults living at home well. I watch as my neighbor continues to shovel her snow, cut her grass, and leave for the gym every morning around 7 AM.

At the end of the day, I hope you will consider that meaning and purpose are very important to the livelihood of your loved ones. If they want to stay at home, how might they get the help they need to be able to enjoy it?

My parents would NEVER accept outside help which unfortunately limited their options. However, that was the choice they made and we did our best to fulfill their wishes. You will find pages and pages in this blog of examples of how poorly that went for us. I wish your family a better fate. Reflected.

Is Driving a Battle Worth Having? YES!

The choices you are faced with when you are stepping in to help are many and varied. One adult child was telling me how she just got her dad to move into an independent living community and dad was still driving. She shared that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s so they wanted to get him somewhere and he seemed to be doing pretty well. I understand the hope to at least get them into a place that is more attuned to help, and that offers other levels of care when needed.

She also mentioned that she worried about him continuing to drive. However, most of us might just accept the move as a win and move on. I know, I was in that situation. For this daughter, just getting him into the community was a victory. The next issue was going to be the driving.

You would hope that the doctor that diagnosed “Alzheimer’s” would help, but in many cases, they don’t discuss how it might impact things like driving and managing the finances.

The daughter was happy that he agreed to move out of his home and into the Life Care Community. When should she bring up the issue of driving?

According to a the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the youngest and oldest drivers have much higher rates of highway crashes and deaths than any other age group, according to 2008 government mileage data, the latest available. Drivers ages 16 and 17 are involved in more crashes, and fatality rates rise steeply for those older than 65, with drivers older than 80 being the most vulnerable.

Consumer Reports Dangerous Drivers 10-12

I am not sure if I’m more worried about the issue of causing a fatality, or the risk of losing all of your life savings should an older adult be sued or charged with a crime. In our litigious society, I don’t think it will be long before someone will prove that an individual diagnosed with “Alzheimer’s” or even “cognitive impairment” was reckless by making the choice to drive after a medical diagnosis.

Do you wait for the accident to happen?
As I have reiterated on this blog, when their is cognitive impairment, you often find that you have to wait for a failure. It actually has a medical term. Anosognosia is when someone is unaware of their own mental health condition or that they can’t perceive their condition accurately.  Anosognosia affects up to 81% of people with Alzheimer’s and some studies show up to 77% of patients suffer anosognosia after a stroke. So can your loved one accurately assess their driving ability? How many of us without a diagnosis over-rate some of our abilities?

Some rehab centers offer assessments, but it’s not so easy to find and in reality, who wants to go pay for a test to learn they might not be safe on the road anymore?

As the adult child, my siblings and I discussed it with our parent’s before the doctor submitted the paperwork to revoke their licenses. We were seeing a lot of dents and dings on the car that were multiplying at an alarming rate before this happened. In the end, we had to hide the cars when they continued to drive after their driving privileges were suspended by the state. I had also retrieved them a few times when they got lost driving to familiar locations. To read more about how we managed through this stage, you can read my posts from back in 2012 called Operation Safety Net.

The car keys represent freedom and independence. Most people don’t want to let that go. However, it’s a battle that is worth fighting for everyone’s safety. Believed. 


  1. Check out your local community to see if you have a Village that can provide a ride.
  2. Contact your county Agency for Aging that can refer you to discounted coupon packages or other discounted local ride services.
  3. Contact a home care agency to set up permanent rides to the grocery, mall, or drugstore.
  4. Check with neighbors or church members who might be interested and available to help out.

Is it Time to Stop Driving?

CAR KEYSI shared the story of how my family dealt with driving. It was difficult and horrible because my parents didn’t know they had lost their licenses and kept driving. Our biggest fear was that they would have an accident and without a valid license … had no auto insurance. If they were in an accident, I could see them being sued for everything they owned. If you want to revisit that series of post, you can find it here.

What has been interesting to witness is the variety of my clients who have freely (but not happily) given up their car keys. There were little issues, like getting lost or having a minor fender-bender, that usually preceded the choice.

For my clients that have given up keys, the ease at which we have been able to get them to the events they want to attend made all the difference in the world. We could shown them that not driving was not going to slow them down.

Friends have mostly filled in to help get them to church, to their member groups, and even to their volunteer obligations. It is actually making their interactions with others richer. In my community, we have a local non-profit that sets up volunteer rides. You may have a similar group in your community. In the McLean area, we have a Shepherd’s Center of McLean/Arlington/Falls Church. In Reston, they have RC Rides through the Reston Community Center, and several of the villages in our area provide rides to their members. To see if you have one in your area, you may want to reach out to the Agency for Aging in your county.

For one client , we incorporated personal care assistants (through an agency that we pay) that can offer on-demand rides when needed. For a few dollars more than a cab ride, he has someone who can comes once a week to help get the grocery list together, get the shopping done and put-away. The other client purchased discounted taxi vouchers so she can get to the grocery store.

I am happy that we can make the loss of the keys not limit my clients ability to continue doing the things that they love. When you face this issue, are there ways to make the loss of the keys not feel like a loss of freedom, but maybe even a move to promote socialization with friends they enjoy and community activities they love? Recommended.





Is it Still Safe for Mom to be Driving?

open-roadI remember how excited I was when I got my license and could drive to 7-11 just because I wanted a slurpee.  It wasn’t really about the slurpee but about just being able to go where ever I wanted to go, when I wanted. I didn’t have to plead with a parent to take me somewhere.

Nearly 40 years later, I am still in love with the freedom a car brings. My husband and I always talk about how nice it would be to be within walking distance to the shopping area of our town, but for now, if we want something from a store, it’s a car ride away.

Driving is a precious right most of us take for granted. For those of us who have had to suggest to a spouse or tell a parent we think it’s unsafe for them to drive, we know how devastating and contentious this discussion becomes.

My parents used to help pick up my kids from pre/school and it was wonderful to know we had a safety net. However, I realized when I was riding with my dad how unsafe his driving had become and we quickly managed to make other arrangements. We didn’t actually tell them why, we attributed it to another parent or team practice.  We initiated pizza night so we could spend time together, but not have our kids as passengers in our parent’s car.

We did subtly ask about the growing number of scraps on the car, but we knew my parents would never willingly give up their car keys. Years later we realized they had cognitive issues and if you want to know how bad it got, you can read these stories.

However, I have heard from several adult children who know something is cognitively wrong with  a parent, and they haven’t considered how unsafe driving can be. Our worries grew when my dad, the engineer, and a navigational savant, was getting lost every now and then on the drive drive from their house to my home. It was a drive he made for more than a decade and hundreds of times.

If you are concerned, I hope you will discuss it with your loved ones. We were rebuked and chided when it was mentioned. A doctor submitted the papers to revoke both of their driving licenses’ after they showed up in the ER and weren’t sure why they were there or for whom they came. Every state has a process to report your concerns. Several people have often shared they would call the police on their own parent which resulted in getting a license revoked. It’s not easy and it’s not a light-hearted topic at all.

The real issue becomes processing speed and the ability to make decisions when you are driving. If someone is having trouble recalling information, they will have the same trouble behind the wheel of a car, but the consequences are much bigger and the outcome could be devastating for your family … and someone else’s if you ignore that a loved one might no longer be safe on the road. Recommended. 

You should have similiar options in your state. Here are examples of what Virginia offers:

Reporating an Impaired Driver

What a Doctor Can Submit to Notify the DMV Driving is Unsafe 


Why you need to know your kids passcodes

PN_headerI was interviewed on Parent Nation about why parents should have their kids document their usernames and passcodes. Most parents have no idea they have no right to the online accounts and assets of their children. It’s one of the ways our modern world has moved faster than the law and parenting guidebooks.

It’s not just a parenting concern, but should be a spousal concern. For those of you who share an Apple account, the The Washington Post recently carried a story, Her dying husband left her the house and the car, but he forgot the Apple password. This relatively simple issue makes no practical sense, but is the reality for those of you not aware that no marital rights or power of attorney can grant you this access. The idea of digital executor is still just a theoretical practice–unless you document your usernames and passcodes for the one who will step in and help or settle your affairs.

I think it’s so important, I have been giving away the chapter on “Taming the Internet” from MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. This chapter gives you free forms to help you take control of your online assets, as well as share the worksheets with loved ones who can document their accounts and put them in a sealed envelope you hope you never need to open. I keep mine by my computer and frequently rely on them to help me access the more than 80 accounts I have. Every quarter, I give back the envelopes to my family to update and return to me.

I never expected to learn so much during this phase of my life, but the least I can do is share it with others in hopes that it will save you time, effort, and grief.

Making the transition to Assisted Living when your parents refuse – Part III

missionaccomplishedSo my parent’s licenses were revoked and they kept driving so we hid their cars. Then my parent’s started to take cabs between their two homes. This created a whole new set of issues since they would arrive without money or keys.

When they broke into their town house and called the police to report the break-in, we were dumb-struck. My dad realized what happened while my mom argued about it as I drove them to their apartment at the retirement community.

At this point, their retirement community was starting to get alarmed at my parent’s behavior. They called me to share the concern over them getting into cabs. We met with the staff who suggested we consider petitioning the courts for Guardianship / Conservatorship and force our parents into Assisted Living.

This process would have devastated my parents. The struggle over the cars and driving made us very aware of how much ego played a part in the needed transitions. We were also hesitant to make this a matter of public record. I was berated many times by my mother when she felt that I did something without first discussing it with my parents. I treated my parents the way I would want to be treated and did always discuss the issue with them, however, they often forgot the conversations. Eventually, the retirement community called in Adult Protective Services. My parents failed to remember their visits.

Eventually, what we found out was that as a resident of a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), the community had the ability to force my parents from Independent Living into Assisted Living. The community respected my parent’s privacy and never told us about this, but when they called to tell us they were going to move my parents, we quickly understood the silver lining in my parent’s choice for this retirement community.

While the organization of getting the move done was monumental and stressful, my siblings came into town to support the move and one of my brothers along with his wife, returned to clean out their town home and Independent Living apartment.

The three steps that helped us support our parent’s transition were:

  1. Address driving if you think it’s an unsafe activity for your parents and their doctor agrees.
  2. If they continue to drive disable or hide the cars.
  3. Look to their retirement community to see if they can help make the transition when it’s needed.

Finally, my parents are in the environment that suits their current needs and they are very happy in their new apartment. Accomplished.

We have a meeting with the Executive Director at 11 a.m.

jerkToday is the day when my parents will be told that they are being transferred to Assisted Living. My mom knew she had this appointment with the Executive Director and has been asking me if I think it’s about moving the frame chopper into their apartment. When I arrive today my mom is anxious.

My parents didn’t ask me to accompany them, but the retirement community requires that I’m at this meeting since I hold my parents power-of-attorney. My parents are happy to see me and my mom wants to discuss all the reasons they should be allowed to move the frame chopper into their apartment. We spend some time walking through the measurements again.

I feel like a jerk. I know what’s coming. I sit down and we talk through how the chopper would fit in their guest bedroom. She shares that she’s worried they might be asked to give up the second half of their apartment. They took a 2 bedroom and connected it to a 1 bedroom.

I remind her that they moved into this retirement community because they wanted help managing through the retirement years. The apartment they created and decorated was featured on many of the open houses the community hosts for prospective residents. It is a nice, gracious apartment. She tells me I’m a good talker and I stated that so well, I need to speak on their behalf at the meeting today. Double Jerk!

We have been concerned for my parents safety and enough events have occurred that the retirement community is exercising their right to transition my parents to Assisted Living. My parents have resisted every change or suggestion of change. We knew this would be difficult, so my siblings and I worked with the Executive Director on how to best communicate and make this transition.

I tell my mom that the Executive Director called this meeting and we just need to show up to hear what she has to say. I know I played a role in orchestrating how this news would be communicated and while I know it’s the right decision, the process has made me uncomfortable. Shamefaced.

Dad has Alzheimer’s

alzheimersFor the past few weeks my mom has given me a variety of reasons to return to their town house:

  • Mom: “Dad needs to do work in his office.”
    Kay: “The boys moved dad’s office to the apartment two months ago. Should we make sure the printer has enough ink?”
  • Mom: “I need to go get my winter coats.”
    Kay: “I just saw some coats in the entry closet. Let’s see if your winter coat is in there.”

We have made these trips, gathered the items they requested, but they don’t remember. 

Sometimes, my mom would ask if I would take them to their town house to stay overnight, I then share with my mom that “Dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I’m worried about you having to help him alone.”

Telling her this seems to immediately sink in. She knows he has good days and bad days.  To almost every question she poses to him he will respond “I don’t remember.” He has yelled at her in public and she has had to have others help her get him back to their apartment — she knows something is wrong with my dad. At their town home, she is alone but at the retirement community she has many around her who can help if dad needs assistance.

Over the summer, I had to rush to the town house to meet the police. My parents broke into their own home, then they called the police to report a break-in. The police would not leave until I arrived and they could speak with me. My parents willingly jumped into my car for a ride back to the retirement community.

I’m thankful that telling this to my mom registers.  I wonder if it’s that I can better communicate on her terms by smiling and patiently answering her questions. It could just be that her own survival mechanisms are still intact and she is aware of her own fear. Soothed.

Hat trick denied but my caregiving skills are improving

Try as I might, I could not squelch the urge of my parents to visit their town home.  So far, there has been no call from the neighbors that they showed up with no money and could not pay the cab (or worse).  Some calls come in a few days after the events. I’m thankful the neighbors call to let us know what they are witnessing.

I am more worried than any other emotion. Will I get a call from the police that they broke into their own home again? Will someone take advantage of my parents confused states? Will one of them walk out and get lost?

Not being able to pay the cab is one of the milder stories I’m ready to share. However, somehow I seem to now feel the  embarrassment my parents no longer feel over these episodes.

Tonight the only call I got was from my mother. She was frustrated she couldn’t find her check book. I told her that she had the right checkbook in her wallet on Tuesday when I saw them at the retirement community.

“I want the checkbook in the maroon case, where is that?”

I’ve had this conversation so many times. I no longer feel angry or frustrated. I tell her it’s the one that was lost last month and quickly change the subject to ask what they had for dinner. We close on a positive note. Grasped.

Make laminated contact cards for their cars.

While I’m not so keen on my parents driving and we are working toward a resolution for this, I was shocked when the social worker told me my parents couldn’t come up with complete names and phone numbers. They both have carried contact phone numbers in their wallets for years.

Apparently, my mom didn’t have her purse with her and I’m not sure if my dad looked in his wallet.

The social worker recommended that I make laminated contact cards and put them in the glove box and back seat of their cars. If they are pulled over or lost and assistance is given, the glove box is one of the first places most police or emergency support will look. Activated.