This is the time of year where the metaphor of ‘roller coaster’ really makes sense. We are at the top of the hill, speeding full steam into the holidays. This is a busy time for many of us, between preparations for the holidays and the ensuing celebrations.
Over the past 20 years helping family caregivers explore Assisted Living, I’ve noticed that this is a busy time in my work as well. With the increase in family gatherings during this season, the adult child is often spending more time with a parent than usual. Annual family traditions can often make apparent the changes in our parents’ condition and capabilities from year to year. Invariably, my phone begins to ring as people reach out for support and advice.
It can be very scary to notice changes in our parents. I think we would all prefer to have the ‘status quo’ remain for as long as possible. Sometimes, we even turn a blind eye because the changes are too painful to acknowledge. Ultimately, everyone suffers if significant issues are not addressed. And the person who suffers the most is the elder.
Here is my challenge to you during this holiday season. Between Thanksgiving and the ringing in of the New Year, please take note of the following while you are visiting and taking care of your aging parent. Be honest with yourself! This is a wonderful opportunity to evaluate and reevaluate options in planning for your elderly parent:
- Environmental Clues: Is the house in disrepair? Is it unkempt? Is the mail piling up? Are there safe walking paths between rooms and up and down the stairs? Is there food in the refrigerator? Is there any sign of infestation? Are medications bottles outdated?
- Physical Clues: Are there changes with grooming habits? Are clothes being changed regularly? Weight gain or weight loss? Are adaptive devices being regularly used (glasses, walker, hearing aide, etc)? Is there any sign of confusion?
- Behavioral Clues: Is your parent more withdrawn? Does s/he seem depressed? Are there changes in mood?
Sometimes ‘status quo’ is not enough. If you notice any of the above changes, you have many care options. They range from simply hiring a geriatric care manager, to bringing in home care, downsizing into an independent living retirement community or choosing a more supportive residential setting like assisted living.
The holidays are an opportunity for different generations to connect and celebrate together. It can also be an opportunity to talk to our parents about what supports might help them maximize their quality of life – now and for many seasons to come.