Haims column: Holidays are a great time to see how aging parents are doing
For those of us who are adult children of parents who may be in their 70s or older, being concerned about their health and well-being may be a difficult subject to think about.
Don’t get me wrong, just because your parents are getting older does not mean that they need help. Further, it does not mean that they cannot take care of themselves and live independently. However, regardless of their current health status, everyone gets older and at some point, all of us may need a little assistance and looking after.
Adult children of parents who are aging may not always look for changes that are happening to their parents, and often overlook them as they’re painful to see. Often, spouses may be the ones to prompt this conversation and point out something out of the ordinary that may be worrisome.
If you are going to see your aging parents for the holidays, in addition to celebrating, take a moment to make sure your older loved ones are still capable of managing their daily lives on their own. Often, older adults need some help to stay safe and healthy, but don’t like to admit it.
Here is a simple checklist that may help determine if a loved one may need some help to stay at home:
Check their appearance
• Are they wearing appropriate clothing?
• Is there any inappropriate body odor that could indicate difficulty bathing, washing their hair or brushing their teeth?
• Have they made any drastic changes to their appearance – wearing more or less makeup, not wearing dentures, etc?
Appearance may be a clue that the activities of daily living may be becoming more difficult. It’s also a potential indicator of deteriorating vision and possibly changes in mental acuity.
Take a look around the home
• Is the refrigerator appropriately stocked?
• Is the house at its usual level of tidiness or is there a change?
• Are dishes and laundry being taken care of in a timely manner?
• Is there expired food in the pantry?
• Ask about meals – are they eating enough? What about water intake?
• Are medications organized or are there expired medications or bottles all over the house?
A change in housekeeping and food choices can indicate difficulty managing shopping, cleaning or cooking.
Talk about their daily routine
• Ask about activities and friends – are they still participating in things they enjoy? Are they able to get themselves to where they want to go?
• Ask about their doctor appointments – do they understand their medications? Have they skipped or missed appointments?
• Check on the bills – are they paying bills on time, or is the mail being ignored?
Giving up activities, missing appointments and ignoring the mail are all signs that an older person may need help. They’re also signs of possible depression, an issue that affects older Americans at alarming rates. If you notice a change in interests or participation in activities you may want to speak with them about their present circumstances and your concerns for their well-being..
Staying home is typically the goal of most seniors. But the reality may be that caring for a home and managing the activities of daily living can become increasingly difficult as we age. Many of our aging parents may be afraid to admit that reality because they fear losing their independence or admitting they need help. A holiday visit represents an ideal opportunity for adult children to communicate with older family members about their health and living situations.
Do not turn a blind eye on a family member or friends who show signs of needing assistance. A simple fall can open Pandora’s box.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Garfield and Pitkin counties. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.