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Home for the Holidays: A Time to Observe, Converse and Connect with Aging Parents

Home for the Holidays

It’s no surprise that the holiday season can bring the passage of time into focus. As we catch up with relatives and friends we may not have seen over the course of the year, we notice the small changes in them that come with age. Even for those who see their family members regularly, the contrast of this year’s celebration to the last can make us all realize that we’re not getting any younger. And the older memories of childhood and holidays past usually contrast with the way things are today.

An aging parent checklist can be helpful. As you come together during the holiday season, you are presented with an opportunity to share observations and to talk proactively about how to maximize your loved-one’s quality of life.

Observe

Take an honest look at the environmental, physical and behavioral clues an aging loved one may exhibit. Environmental clues may include:

  • Outdated medication bottles
  • Insufficient or spoiled food in the house
  • Clutter that prevents safe walking paths through the home
  • The yard or house falling into disrepair

Physical clues may include:

  • Weight gain or loss
  • A change in grooming habits
  • Behaviors that indicate adaptive devices, like glasses, walker or hearing aides are needed

Finally, you may see behavioral changes related to mood, increased confusion and/or depression.

Talk

Talk to your parents about their quality of life. What is working and what is not? What is most important to them at this point in their life? Are they able to enjoy the things they used to? What, if anything, is holding them back from doing the things they love? This will help you identify which areas of support might best improve their lives.

This is also a good time of year to get clarity on key pieces of information such as:

  • Which medical providers they see
  • How they handle finances
  • Their health and other insurance information
  • Whether they have a Health Care Proxy and/or Power of Attorney designated
  • Which friends or neighbors you might contact in case of emergency

It’s also important to get a sense of your loved one’s end-of-life wishes. Letting you know in advance what they want is one of the greatest gifts they can give you.

Connect

Check in with the other family “stakeholders” who may be in town and figure out how you can best work together as a team. The most important participants in these conversations are your elder loved one.  Instead of talking around them, listen to what they have to say. They are, and should be, the center of this process.

This is also a good time to identify local resources that can help with the quality of life issues you may have identified. Explore local home care, transportation, care management options, social programs and senior living communities that can maximize your aging loved one’s independence and quality of life. 

About Hebrew SeniorLife Continuing Care Retirement Communities
Hebrew SeniorLife offers a variety of Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) in Massachusetts, open to residents of all backgrounds, faiths and cultures. A CCRC is an organization that offers a full range of housing, residential services, and health care in order to serve its older residents as their needs change over time. Their mission is to give the elderly [I know this was previous approved but do we really use the word elderly? I thought we tried to stay away from that particularly in this context] easy access to a continuum of care that ensures residents enjoy independent and productive lives with the support of social and health care services.
Learn more about the five unique senior living communities at Hebrew SeniorLife

Tara Fleming Caruso, MA, LMHC's picture

About the Blogger

Collaborative Care Advisor at NewBridge on the Charles

Tara serves as the collaborative care advisor for the NewBridge campus, making her an important resource for each of our residents and their families. Tara helps each senior moving to NewBridge both understand and access the variety of supports our continuum of care offers so each can live their best life possible. Tara brings almost 25 years of elder care experience to this role, including developing an expressive therapy program in a skilled nursing facility, serving as a program manager at a dementia-specific assisted living, and working at NewBridge on the Charles since 2009. She is a...

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