The holiday season is typically the time when families and friends visit aging loved ones more than during the year. Frequently, this is also the time when they discover troubling changes in health, behavior or physical appearance of their elder loved one. Many will discover their aging loved one now needs more help or attention and can leave them wondering how to approach this development.
This is where an Aging Life Care Professional® can be instrumental. “For many families, the holidays are the first visit they’ve had with an aging relative in a year or longer,” says Kate Granigan an Aging Life Care Professional practicing in Boston, MA. “It’s the first time they can see that their mother’s house is more cluttered than before, that she’s shuffling more down the hallway, or has strategically placed furniture to hold onto for balance.”
Aging Life Care Association® incoming Board of Directors’ President Liz Barlowe, MA, CMC states that during the visit, families can take time to observe any changes in an aging family member’s behavior or lifestyle.
These changes may vary widely: Bruises or cuts may indicate a recent fall or a damaged car may indicate difficulty driving. “These signs show serious and immediate risk for the individual as well as others around them,” states Barlowe. “Taking stock of general, subtle signs of decline is important too.”
Social isolation for seniors is a big concern, especially after the holidays Barlowe adds. The attention and activities around the holidays quickly fade and many aging relatives are left alone. “Loneliness and seclusion can be just as harmful as unhealthy habits.” This is where you can consider how technology can help with some of the video chat or photo sharing services to brighten your elder loved one’s day.
So how do you start a conversation with your loved one that they consider outside help? Take cues of what may be challenging them without confronting them. Ask questions about how their life could be easier or more enjoyable and then you can gently lead into a service you learned about to help out-source challenging tasks or to be a go-to assistant for support.
Here are four key areas to examine during your holiday visits:
- Environment: is there damage or disrepair around the house; are there piles of unopen mail; does the car have dents or scratches?
- Food: is there adequate food; do you notice weight-loss or extreme weight gain?
- Mood or behavior: do you notice increased confusion; have they given up hobbies or social outings; do you notice increased irritability or apathy?
- Personal hygiene: do they not dress like they used to; do clothes seem unkempt or dirty; have they lost interest in personal grooming?
These are just a few warning signs that your elder loved one needs assistance. By initiating conversation and reaching out for support and information, you can help your loved ones as you, and they, navigate this new stage of their lives.
For more information or to find an Aging Life Care Professional near you visit aginglifecare.org
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.