Parents are supposed to be the people who provide for their children. However, as your parents age, they sometimes lose the ability to care for themselves, make sound judgements and complete day-to-day tasks. The term for this is elder incapacity, and it can affect you and your parents for the next several years to come.
Understanding elder incapacity
Capacity refers to one’s ability to make medical, financial and legal decisions and take care of oneself. As people age, they often begin to lose their capacity – sometimes slowly, sometimes all at once. Sometimes, elder incapacity is considered a form of elder neglect, though the person perpetrating it is the elder themselves.
Some signs that a senior citizen might be losing their capacity include:
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Poor hygiene
- Hunger and dehydration
- Unpaid bills
- Loss of touch from reality
- Insufficient medical care
Granted, forgetting their car keys now and then or skipping a meal sometimes does not necessarily indicate that your parent is losing their faculties. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with their ability to care for themselves and keep themselves safe.
What to do if your parent is losing capacity
Watching your parents lose their mental sharpness is incredibly painful. If you believe that they can no longer take care of themselves on their own, it might be time to consider a guardianship or a conservatorship. This would allow you or another trusted party to manage your parent’s finances, medical treatment and living situation. You can also explore options such as long-term care in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
The earlier you can start planning for potential incapacity the better. If your parents are still of sound mind, sit down with them and have a conversation about what your family should do to provide for them. Discussing long-term care can feel depressing, but it is of utmost importance for keeping your parents safe and happy when it is your turn to provide for them.