Visiting family can be one of the best parts of the holiday season, but it can also be a stressful situation, especially if going home means realizing that a parent’s or loved one’s health has declined over the past year.
For many adult children, going home to visit the folks for the holidays may be the first time they realize that mom or dad needs additional support—whether in the form of home health care, an assisted living facility, or other long-term care (LTC) services.
Here are three things to look for during your holiday visits . . . and three things to keep in mind if it seems like a transition is on the horizon.
If your parent doesn’t appear to be performing basic hygienic practices (brushing their teeth, bathing, maintaining hair and nails), that can be a red flag that support is needed. Changes in personality, mood swings, mobility problems, and signs of social isolation can also point to cognitive issues or trouble living independently.
Forgetfulness and combativeness can also be signs of dementia or other problems that may require extra care.
A person’s dietary habits can say a lot about their overall health. While every person’s constitution and preferences are different (and likely to change from time to time), dramatic or abrupt changes in food behavior can signal a possible problem.
This is especially true if there is evidence of improperly stored food, food that is long past its prime, or symptoms of chronic overeating, undereating, or malnutrition.
Some people just aren’t known for keeping their homes clean as a whistle. And even those who have typically kept an extra-tidy home may lose some of those habits as they age. But if clutter or untidiness becomes a health hazard, that is a different situation.
If your parent’s cleaning routine (or lack thereof) could lead to mobility difficulties, the invitation of pests, or problems with air or water quality, for instance, it may be time to discuss a new solution.
Some changes in mood or in the diet may be a single occurrence or be typical of the aging process. If an older loved one gets confused over family members’ names or they forget to brush their hair one morning, that’s not necessarily cause for alarm.
It is the changes that happen abruptly or become patterns of concerning behavior that are most likely to suggest something bigger is going on.
If you suspect that a parent or loved one is no longer able to live independently, beginning that conversation can feel overwhelming — for both of you. Remember that they have feelings and opinions and fears, too.
Even if your parent is struggling to care for themselves, they may not be ready to admit that. Try to exercise as much patience and understanding as you can.
Keep in mind that your parent or elderly loved one has likely been only their own for a long time. Change is hard and they may be resistant to having help around the house or moving away from their home to an assisted living facility. Independence may be very important to them and trying to force a quick change because it will make you feel better may cause emotional harm. Address the changes you have in mind slowly and respectfully; treat your loved one with dignity and strive for empathy and understanding.
If you or your parent are feeling overwhelmed, start with just one or two of the most impactful changes you can make. If there are direct safety concerns, tackle those first. Look for the simplest fixes that can make the biggest improvements, such as clearing out the trash that may attract pests or that could be blocking an exit.
When discussing home health care or an assisted living facility, find out what plans have already been made – including any existing Long Term Care insurance policies.
Next, consider what support is needed immediately and then create a plan for the future. Chances are, your elderly loved one is still a candidate for aging in place and no drastic measures need be taken, such as moving them to a care facility.
Start with a few small things like elder-proofing the home to help keep them safer. Also, add some communication devices such as an Echo Show or Google Home so that you can easily facilitate communication and emergency outreach for them.
For help handling those long-term care insurance claims, call Family Solutions for Care so you have one less thing to worry about!