How to Cope with Aging Parents During the Holidays

Dealing with Aging Parents During the Holidays

The holidays are a time when families gather, and for children who are visiting from out of town, it can also be a time when they begin to notice something’s “not quite right” with Mom or Dad. Helping someone see and accept that they need help is a difficult task discussed in the earlier blog entry “Difficult Conversations.” But knowing when your parents may need more than gentle prodding and are truly at risk of injury can be challenging.

If the person has been diagnosed with dementia, the answer is clear: seek assistance now. But if the path isn’t so clear, how do you know when your concerns are justified? Don’t dismiss those gut feelings. Hunches don’t often come from nowhere. If you are routinely noticing several of these issues, it may be time to discuss scheduling a doctor’s visit. Tell them you would like an assessment for age-related safety issues.

  • Missing appointments, forgetfulness and confusion regarding medications
  • Unexplained bruising or marks on his or her body
  • Repeated phone calls at odd hours
  • Trouble getting up from a seated position or with walking, balance and mobility
  • Infrequent showering and bathing or strong smell of urine in the house
  • Decline in grooming habits, dressing habits and personal care
  • Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
  • Household chores are going undone
  • Spoiled food in the home that doesn’t get thrown away
  • Poor diet or weight loss
  • Scorched pots and pans
  • Stacks of unopened mail, late payments or bounced checks
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
  • Unexplained dents and scratches on a car
  • Symptoms of depression such as lack of interest in old activities, loneliness, crying, listlessness

Being Prepared to Help: A Checklist

  1. Gather current records of your parents’ health insurance, medical history, physicians and contact numbers and medications. Update them every six months.
  2. Make a list of important documents and information such as a will and living wills, bank, investment and credit card accounts, social security number and insurance policies.
  3. Get a basic outline of your parents’ monthly expenses and income.
  4. Suggest creating power of attorney and advance directive documents.
  5. Conduct a home safety assessment for hazards. Click here for a detailed Home Safety Assessment checklist.
  6. When hiring caregivers, interview the company and the caregiver that would be assigned. Make sure the agency conducts thorough background checks.
  7. Research what aging services – including transportation – are available in your hometown so you are prepared if an emergency arises. Contact your local Office on Aging for information.
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