The holidays are a time of homecoming, when we gather with family and share good food, good times and good conversations, but for people who don't live near their parents, going home for the holidays can also provide time to assess how elderly parents are doing at home.
Your parents may be fine, but when people get older, it can be easy to miss signs of poor health, memory problems and other issues that should be addressed before things worsen. Make your holiday visit as special as ever, but keep an open mind and a watchful eye.
Look to their appearance for cues on general health and hygiene. Pay close attention to bruises, which could indicate falls or stumbles. Listen closely to what they say, and watch how they perform tasks, to check for memory problems. Spend time with them in the community to see how they conduct themselves in restaurants or stores, especially unfamiliar ones. Pay attention to their health habits, observe their surroundings at home, watch their driving, and subtly inquire about their finances.
Problems with memory, health, anxiety, isolation, safety and other issues can show up in simple signs if you know what to look for.
If your parents attend worship services, go with them. Access to their church family could give you valuable input from other parishioners on how your parents are doing, as well as create relationships that could be helpful in the future.
After your holiday visit, arrange to come back and discuss future plans. Unless something needs immediate attention, let it go for the moment and address your observances once you get home. If you have other siblings, strive to work with them to do the best for your parents. Long distance caregiving isn't easy, but it's important to do what you can while still ensuring your parents retain their dignity.
For a comprehensive guide on what to look for on your holiday visit, please watch our video "Home for the Holidays."
You Need Help, Too
Hopefully your parents know they can come to you if they need help, but where do caregivers go for help? More is available than you might think. Many resources, from tips and advice to information on available services, are available to the elderly and to people who are taking care of parents. mmLearn.org offer over 300 FREE online videos for caregivers of older adults. Check us out and let us know what you think.