When Holiday Visits With Aging Parents Reveal Unexpected Care Needs

Holiday visits with aging parents provide a wonderful opportunity to reconnect and reminisce, but they can also reveal hidden care concerns that can catch you off guard. This is especially true if older loved ones live at a distance and you’ve been relying on phone calls and video chats to assess how they’re doing. It’s easy to miss some important red flags until you’re face to face. Once those warning signs are evident, it can be overwhelming to know exactly what your next steps should be.

Of course, no one wants to face the reality that a senior loved one is struggling. Your first reaction may be to justify the problems you’re seeing, or to minimize them. If you’ve picked up on any of the following signs, however, you will want to explore further what should be done to help.

What Are the Signs That a Senior Needs Help at Home?

There are two key areas to assess:

  • Appearance of the person. Consider what is typical for the person. Are they usually meticulously dressed and groomed? A sudden lack of attention to personal hygiene can be the result of depression, dementia, or some form of physical impairment. Also notice if the person has gained or lost a noticeable amount of weight. They may be struggling with shopping for and preparing healthy meals, or there could be a change to appetite that should be assessed by the doctor. You’ll also want to notice any bruises or injuries on the person that could indicate a fall or even elder abuse.
  • Appearance of the home. As with the person’s physical appearance, look for changes from the norm in the upkeep and maintenance of the home. Is there more clutter, piles of unopened mail or laundry, scorch marks on pots and pans or the countertop? Are the lights and air conditioning in working order? Is the yard mowed? Are the bathrooms clean? Is food in the fridge or pantry expired or inedible? Pay attention to any clues that could indicate cognitive decline. These include short-term memory problems as well as forgetting the names of everyday objects and familiar people, or misplacing items in unusual places (such as putting their keys in the freezer). If they are still driving, check the car for scratches or dents, and the walls of the garage for paint scrapes.

When these or any other noticeable changes have caused you concern, there are steps you can take to ensure older loved ones can safely continue living at home.

  • Document your concerns. Start a journal and note as many details as possible, including dates and particular times of day the concerns were noted, if applicable.
  • Talk with other family members. Compare notes to see if others have picked up on similar or additional concerns.
  • Speak with your parents. This can be the most difficult step. It’s very common for older adults to deny a problem exists, both to protect their family members from worrying and to ensure they can maintain their independence. Let your parents know in a gentle and nonjudgmental way that you are concerned and that your goal is also to make sure they can continue to live independently at home.
  • Schedule a checkup. Arrange for a checkup with the primary care physician to share your concerns. They can determine if something can be easily corrected, such as adjusting a medication due to side effects. They can also ascertain if a health condition needs to be explored and treated. Additionally, they can serve as a trusted professional to advise your parents on the necessity for steps to be taken to improve their safety at home.
  • Seek support. Home care is very often an ideal solution to provide peace of mind to family members and to ensure safety and comfort for seniors without compromising independence. Enlist a home care service professional to perform a care needs assessment. If your aging parents balk at the idea, try to reach a compromise, such as a trial run with a caregiver to help with just one or two chores they would enjoy assistance with, such as laundry and preparing meals. As they become comfortable with a new caregiver, they may welcome support in other areas as well.

Red flags that arise during holiday visits with aging parents should never be brushed under the rug. As hard as it may be to face reality, there are solutions that can be implemented to alleviate your concerns and ensure your parents can continue to enjoy living at home for a lifetime.

Right at Home, an award-winning home care provider of senior care in Lido Key and serving all of Sarasota County, provides professionally certified senior care services. Contact us at (941) 929-1966 for a free in-home consultation to discuss your care needs or concerns.

Michael Juceam
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