According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 44.7 million people, over 14% of the population, was 65 or older as of July 1, 2013. That number will only increase and that means more of us will have aging parents to watch out for not only because they will increase in number but because life expectancy continues to increase.
This also matters because aging means more than gray hair and wrinkles. It also means becoming more vulnerable to financial or even physical dangers, as senior citizens can become weaker in body and mind both, as well as lonely. Which is why now is the time to become aware of dangers so you can have conversations and be ready for what the future brings. Keeping your elderly parents safe is easier when you’re proactive. Below are four things to consider discussing with them—and staying aware of.
If your parents are living independently but have caregivers coming into the home, make sure these caregivers are properly screened! Make sure the agency is insured and bonded, and that criminal background checks have been completed. And then pay close attention to the condition of your parents and their home, as well as any remarks they might make that surprise you.
Are people really so sleazy that they will stoop to tricking the elderly out of their money? Yes! Aging parents who are lonely are easy victims when someone calls and is friendly, making them more at risk of fraud. Telemarketers will be touting foreign money offers, prizes, sweepstakes, lotteries, auctions, computer issues, shopping at home, catalogs, and any other kind of underhanded schemes. Stress to your parents that if it sounds too good to be true, it is! And if the telemarketer won’t let them check with you before making a decision, they should hang up a.s.a.p.
If you can, minimize their isolation and loneliness. This is going to look different for every family and situation, but it’s key to keeping your parents less vulnerable to the kind of psychological manipulation they’re otherwise vulnerable to. Also talk to your parents about only going out with friends and family, not alone. When they are on their own, they should walk with a purpose and know where they are going before they step outside.
- Keeping strangers out
Your parents should have solid doors with deadbolts. Make sure all entryways have bright lighting and even motion sensitive lighting. Keep any bushes trimmed back and make sure the house number is clearly visible from the street. Trim shrubbery around doors and windows and make sure the address is displayed for emergency personnel. Get a home security system and make sure both you and your parents are comfortable using it.
As for your parents, they shouldn’t open the door until after they’ve looked through the peephole viewer. Your parents should ask for photo identification from service, delivery or utility workers before letting them in, or better yet have someone else there when a stranger is scheduled to arrive.
(For more tips, on keeping your parents safe at home, see 6 Tips to Keep Your Parents Independent Longer.)
And remember, you’re not alone
It’s tough when the time comes to switch from the one receiving the care to the one giving it! But you’re not alone. Get the rest of your family involved, as well as the friends of your parents. Have everyone keeping an eye and ear out for anything that seems off, either physically or emotionally or even financially. It’s okay to be checking on your parent’s finances if it prevents a small problem from becoming a disastrous one.
Also get familiar with your local resources on aging, so if and when you do need help, you’ll know where to turn.