As the holidays approach, it is easy to be distracted by the festivities. But if you have aging parents, the togetherness of the holiday season can be the ideal way to complete a discreet "surveillance mission" in order to assess their health and well-being without being too obvious. Family celebrations can help loved ones and caregivers determine if adjustments to current living situations are in order for the coming year. If your aging parents live alone, maybe some assistance to remain independent is necessary. Or, it could be time to consider a step up to an assisted living community or memory care home.
It can be difficult, but a holiday wellness check might assure the future health and safety of elder loved ones. That is a gift of another kind.
What Are the Warning Signs?
In addition to problems with mobility and other physical complaints, be aware of behavioral changes:
- Changes in eating, grooming and personal hygiene habits
- Chronic and unexplained forgetfulness that impedes quality of life
- "Out of character" behavior or a change in relationships; moodiness; unusual anger
- Bruises, burns or other unexplained physical injuries
- Misuse of prescriptions
- Changing attitudes towards personal belongings, either a lack of care or unusual possessiveness
- Withdrawal from normal social life; alterations to familiar routines; missed commitments
- Mismanaged finances like missed payments and overpayments, unusual purchases, or just a general carelessness with money
The Growing Problem of Depression
Signs of clinical depression are often overlooked by adult children and caregivers, even in seniors who have part- or full-time assistance. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that as many as 6.5 million elder citizens suffer from depression, with another 25 percent of seniors feeling increased "sadness."
As always, the goal of your wellness check should be to help your loved one retain as much dignity and independence as possible.
An elderly parent with failing eyesight or mobility issues may need some form of physical assistance. When it comes to Alzheimer’s and dementia, proper care and medication can help slow or manage the onset and progression of symptoms. Whatever your parents’ needs, you can find help and support. Speak to your parent's spiritual adviser, friends, neighbors and local caregivers, if appropriate. Try to accompany your loved one to a medical appointment, so that you can ask questions of physicians and get access to professional resources.
Arranging for Assistance
Talk to the rest of your family about your concerns. Stress your desire to help and share your fears—it just may be just the right stimulus for a change. Visit a retirement community; tour a memory care wing together; speak to agencies that supply in-home help. Whatever you perceive to be the immediate need, try to enlist the support of your loved ones. If you have siblings or extended family, plan a family meeting where you can discuss options. Be mindful, however, that seniors can be resistant to change—even if it is necessary—so if you can have the discussion before the need for change becomes critical, transitions will be easier.
The Move to More Care
Sometimes, simply acknowledging the need for more care represents a huge burden lifted. If you having the luxury of time to plan, it will become easier for everyone. Most parents don't want to be a burden to their children, and any change is less stressful if they share in the decision-making process. If, however, you must make care decisions on their behalf, call upon trained professionals for advice and assistance. At Episcopal Retirement Homes, our continuum of services is designed to ease a transition through all stages of care—from independent living to memory care.