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Visiting Aging Parents During the Holidays

November 16, 2016

The Holidays present a wonderful opportunity to visit with your older family members and observe how things may have changed since the last time you were in their home.  Even if you speak regularly on the phone, there is no substitute for a face-to-face visit.  This is a great time to take stock and see if there have been changes that might suggest some intervention.

What should you look for?

  • Is there evidence of weight loss?  Is your family member suddenly looking frailer?
  • Are household chores getting done?  Are laundry and dishes piling up?
  • Has there been a decline in personal grooming?
  • Has mail begun to accumulate?  Have bills been paid?
  • Are there signs that medication is not being taken as directed?
  • Is the refrigerator relatively empty with spoiled or expired food?
  • Is clutter accumulating, thereby creating a fall risk? Is there any other evidence of falling, such as bruising?
  • Are there apparent changes in emotional well-being?  For example, are there signs of depression?  Have your parents stopped visiting with friends or going to the senior center?
  • Are you seeing more serious signs of memory loss, which may be contributing to questionable financial decisions or unsafe living conditions in the home? 

It is very common for parents and children to avoid having the tough conversations. And while you may want to keep things light during the holiday season, now may be the time to gather this information so as to avoid frustration and confusion down the road.

After taking stock, what are some next steps?

  • Is the home safe?  Consider a home safety assessment to address fall risk and other safety concerns, especially if your relative is showing signs of early memory loss.
  • Are there legal documents in place, including Powers of Attorney (for healthcare and finance) and Living Wills?  If not, perhaps you can get this process started.
  • If there is a concern with bills being paid on time or with managing all the “paper” in general, consider engaging a professional Daily Money Manager to help with these matters.
  • Does the older adult or family wish to consider other living options, including congregate independent living, or more supportive options such as assisted living?  Think about talking to a professional about the best options for your family to consider.
  • Is there a plan in place, in case problems escalate and the family needs to make a change quickly?  Making a future plan for peace of mind goes a long way in avoiding unnecessary stress and poor decision-making in a crisis. 
  • Consider engaging the services of the care professionals at North Shore Senior Options, an affiliate of North Shore Senior Center. We can offer help with all of the steps listed above and also are able to take advantage of our extensive knowledge of community resources. We are available to help families meet current needs, provide ongoing support, and help families to develop plans for future care.