Holidays and Your Aging Parents
Some Signs to Check If Mom or Dad are Aging Well
Many people notice changes in their parents’ health or living situations during their holiday visits. With Christmas approaching, below are some of the signs to watch for – indications that it is time to discuss the future with your aging parent and time to help them to find solutions.
Sudden weight loss or gain: Has your parent stopped eating, or
lowered their activity level? Is there nutritious food in the house or are they surviving on pre-packaged foods? Has one spouse passed away leaving the other to cook for one?
Confusion: Do you notice increased forgetfulness or disorientation? Please note that sudden onset of confusion does not necessarily indicate Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, but may be a drug-interaction or other common medical problem that needs to be treated.
Difficulty hearing: Do you notice you have to shout to be heard? Is the television on high volume when you visit? Has your parent stopped calling you on the telephone?
Sloppy personal appearance: Was Mom always a fashion plate and
now wears stained clothing? Is your parent’s shower or bath area safe and easy for them to use? They may be afraid of falling. On the other hand, she may have a basement laundry and can’t get up and down the stairs.
Messy House: Are there dirty dishes in the sink? Is there clutter everywhere? Does it look like the house hasn’t been cleaned recently? Are there safety hazards (throw rugs, extension cords, etc.) that could cause a fall?
Difficulty Walking/Getting Up: Did your parent used to sprint and now they can barely walk? Do you notice them having a hard time getting in an out of their favorite chair?
Personality Changes: Have you noticed that your parent who was always outgoing and friendly is now uncommunicative? Have they withdrawn from family and social life? Or, where your parent was once independent are they now afraid of making any decisions?
What if your parent doesn’t seem to have any of these problems? It’s never too soon to bring up the topic of helping your parent and to start making plans for the future. It is always better to open the conversation about the future before a crisis (a stroke, a fall) occurs.
How do you start this conversation? We are used to our parents asking us what we’re doing with our lives, and now we find ourselves asking our parents the same questions.
Plan the conversation. Take time to plan the topics you want to cover. You may want to start with a few questions at a time. What do you know about their insurance? What doctors do they see? Are they on any medications you should be aware of? Has their doctor recently changed their medications? Have they seen a dentist recently (dental problems could be the cause of weight loss.) Did they fall recently, or are they afraid of falling? Have they considered long term care insurance? Do they have wills and have they designated health care proxies? Have they thought about what they would like to have happen if they can’t care for themselves any longer?
Reassure your parent. Make it clear that you want to talk about this because you care about them and want to help.
Listen carefully. While this conversation is difficult for you, this
role reversal is also hard for your loved one. Your parent may surprise you and may have definite ideas of what they do or do not want, and may already have made some plans.
Be prepared to accept that your parent’s decisions may not be the outcome that you want. Once they’ve told you what they want, you can talk about how you can help support those choices.
After you talk with your parents, do some research. Learn about the services and types of care that are offered in your parent’s area. Visit Schofield Residence’s website at www.schofieldcare.org for some links to helpful organizations, or call Schofield at 874-1566, ext. 316 for information.
Congratulate yourself on taking steps to have this important conversation!