After almost 19 months of disconnect because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will at long last be able to begin gathering with our families and enjoying the various traditions of the holiday season. With new joy we’ll catch up, renew traditions, and perhaps, create some new ones.
Many of us are caring for aging parents, and some have been doing this long-distance as we waited for a vaccine and sheltered in place to keep one another safe. This season siblings will ask the question, how are things with mom and dad? They may determine that things are not so good.
Family holiday gatherings provide an ample opportunity to evaluate the overall well-being of aging loved ones. Since we might have been away from their home for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to take a walk around, inspect the living conditions.
As you interact, you can subtly evaluate any evident changes in hygiene, weight, etc. You’ll also want to observe and determine if there are any signs of bruises or other indications of a fall. Do your parents appear confused, nervous, overwhelmed or experiencing memory issues or trouble managing their medication?
The normal aging process can make day-to-day tasks more difficult. Evidence of faltering household maintenance, clutter and unpaid bills accumulating are all potential warning signs of difficulties in need of attention. Other indicators of trouble include a lack of fresh, healthy food or cleanliness issues in the kitchen and bathroom areas.
As you converse during the holiday season, it may be wise to inquire about their medical appointments and if they are having difficulty getting to the doctor’s office or grocery store. Often telltale signs of driving difficulties are scrapes, dents or other damage from accidents.
If your visit uncovers any of these signs, it’s time to seek trained aging professionals to help. Gathering other family members for a gentle discussion with older loved ones is a good way to begin dialog about your concerns for their safety and desire to help them life the best quality of life, while maintaining their dignity.
It is important to be clear that you are not trying to take away their independence. They need to hear how much you love them as a starting point. This discussion also will help family members gauge their level of openness to accepting help to lead a safe, worry-free lifestyle.
Taking action now will help you and your parents enjoy future celebrations and holiday gatherings together.
If you are uncertain of where to begin or need expert advice on seeking local senior resources, please contact Elderwerks consultants at 855-462-0100. These trained, caring professionals are available to help your loved ones age safely in place or locate living arrangements better suited to their situation.
• Jennifer Prell is president of Elderwerks Educational Services, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit offering complimentary information, referrals and guidance to older adults, seniors and their families for senior living, care, support and benefits. Go to elderwerks.org or call 855-462-0100 for personal assistance. Email questions to email@example.com.