Home for the Holidays?

Visiting your aging parents for the holidays can elicit many intense feelings, made all the more difficult if you notice changes in your parents that you aren’t sure what to do about. If you live a distance from your aging parents, the holidays may be the first time you’ve had the opportunity to recently assess your parents and their health. Really take the time to look at your parents with fresh eyes and observe if anything about them seems downright different. Really ask about how they are doing, and observe if they seem mentally and physically healthy to you.
Listen carefully during your conversations for signs of things they may be struggling with at home. While this is a time for joy and celebration, you can make note of things to discuss with them later. Below is a list of things to look for:
• If a loved one has had obvious weight loss or gain, they may have a medical condition that needs to be addressed.
• Changes in physical grooming habits, such as unkempt hair, dirty clothes, or body odor could be a sign of physical ailment or memory loss.
• A quick glance at a stack of mail can produce some telling clues. For example, unopened bills can be a sign of financial trouble or memory loss, as can statements of overdue balances. If you see an unusual amount of solicitations or thank you letters from charities, you might want to discuss with your parents how much they are donating, how often, and if it is financially prudent for them. Unfortunately, there are fake charities that target senior citizens with financial scams.
• Take a quick assessment of driving skills by asking one of your parents to drive you to the store. Note if he or she seems tense or easily distracted behind the wheel, as well as if he or she is wearing his or her seat-belt and obeying traffic laws. This is also an opportunity to check the gas level and dashboard warning lights to see if your parents are properly maintaining their vehicles.
• Check out all of the appliances in the home to make sure they are in good working order. This goes double for smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and medical alert systems.
• Look around your parents’ home and see if their standard of living seems to have changed. If you find clutter and cobwebs in what was once a spotlessly clean home, it could be a sign of depression or the onset of physical limitations.
• Ask your parent if he or she continues to attend social activities that he or she used to enjoy. Limiting activities may be a sign of depression or the beginnings of cognitive impairment.
If you find that your parent is having difficulty managing at home without help, start the conversation by contracting with An Aging Life Care Professional, also known as a geriatric care manager, who can act as a guide and advocate for families who are caring for older relatives or disabled adults.