This time of year, adult children from all over the country make their way “home” to spend the holidays with their family. Perhaps you have elderly parents you haven’t seen in awhile. Your sibling, who lives closer, tells you that Mom fell last month, or you have begun to notice they seem more forgetful during your weekly phone chat. This is the perfect opportunity to see how Mom and Dad are doing in their own environment. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Better to observe issues now and do something about them before a major crisis arises.
We have a checklist that you can go through using your powers of observation to see how Mom or Dad are faring in their home. Perhaps you’ll discover they could use some supportive services to do a little better.
Look at their appearance while you’re home -
Are they wearing the same clothes?
Do their clothes have stains?
Is their hair clean and combed?
Was Dad always clean-shaven and now he isn’t?
Did Mom always wear make-up and now she doesn’t?
Have they lost weight?
Do they have an odor?
If you observe any of these signs, your loved one may be having difficulty taking care of their own personal care needs (bathing, dressing, grooming, laundry). They could benefit from a home care aide coming to assist with these things.
Look around their home while you’re there.
Is it more cluttered?
Do you detect any unpleasant odors?
Does the refrigerator and/or cupboards smell?
Is there an unusual amount of dust on furniture or dirt on the floor?
Are they emptying their garbage?
Do they have expired food?
If you observe some of these issues, your loved one may be having trouble with housekeeping and taking care of their living environment. They could benefit from a home care aide coming in and assisting with these types of things.
Pay attention to their mental status as you visit and catch up.
Do they call you by name?
Do they speak the same, or do you notice a change in vocabulary, speed or volume?
Are they keeping up with the news?
Are they still participating in outside activities or hobbies?
Do they talk about the future?
Do they seem more emotional, crying easily?
Does their personality seem different?
Do you notice they are confused a lot?
Do they ask you the same questions?
Are they taking medications as prescribed?
If you notice concerns in these areas, your loved one may be having memory issues, an infection that is affecting their mental status, or depression. They could benefit from companion care or nursing care to treat an underlying health condition.
Finally, what do you know about their health condition?
Have they mentioned falling in the last three months?
Have they had a hospital stay or ER visit in the last three months?
Do they have diabetes, arthritis, congestive heart failure, COPD or cancer?
Have they ever had a stroke?
Have they been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/dementia?
Do they have any open wounds?
Do they take a lot of medication?
All of these items are health concerns that if not managed aggressively or appropriately could lead to worsening problems or even placement in long term care. If you note items on this list that concern you, your loved one may benefit from skilled home health services from a visiting nurse or therapist.
Home care is a great preventative measure to improve little issues now before they become a health crisis down the road. WRC’s home care agency In Home Solutions even offers “Living Well” memberships for that purpose. Clients purchase an annual or six month package and receive an array of home care services each month (like help with chores and housekeeping). Psstt….this is a great gift idea for elderly loved ones.
Now if you notice things that concern you, you are going to want to discuss them with your parents, but probably not over Christmas dinner. In the next blog I’ll help you with that by sharing tips for how to bring up the tough subject of planning for the future with your aging parents.
In the meantime, WRC wishes you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy holiday season!
Director of Marketing and Communications