Tis the season, and off the 'grandmother's house we go' - and this might be the first or second time this year you actually get to visit. If you don't live nearby - you may not really know if your parents are really 'ok' or 'fine' as they report to you.
This Blog reveals some important things to be aware of - and how to identify real 'issues' without being demanding or controlling.
There are also tips in this site for all types of care for the elderly, especially those with memory and mobility difficulties.
Here's a quick summary:
- HUG your parents- did they lose weight? Gain weight? Are they noticeably frail - these are symptoms of malnutrition, memory (forgetting when they ate - repeating meals or forgetting them), or money problems may limit what they can afford to buy. Notice how they move around - are they shuffling? Using props to prevent falls? Do they need more supports or assistance railings?
- Strange body odor - noticeable deterioration of their standard. Are they wearing same clothes repeatedly? (Fear or actual physical limits to getting them on/off) Proper personal hygiene? They may fear falling when trying to use tubs.
- Rifle through mail - Are there unopened envelopes other than true 'junk' mail? Are there late/collection notices? Review a Bank Statement if you can for appropriate use. Take not of multiple thank yous from charities - are they being scammed or are they agencies/churches/causes they always give to? Is their giving appropriate to their income?
- Take a drive -with them in the Driver's seat. Check the vehicle for dents, dings or serious damages. Do they put their seat belt on? (or forget?) Did they mix up gas/brake pedals? While driving are they stopping appropriately, able to park, find their way? How is their reaction time?
- Check dashboard warning lights - they may not know why they are on, what needs to be done or not have the money to fix what's wrong. Check fluids. Arrange for needed care if its being neglected.
- Inspect Kitchen - are they stockpiling? or are cupboards bare? Are they shopping too much - buying repeats they don't need or fearful of going out? Are they changing the way they eat? More microwave and take-out/ delivery instead of prepared meals? Are all of their appliances working properly? Check to make sure and follow through if they aren't. Has there been any recent fires - scorched items/ walls/ cabinets?
- Living Areas - Are there piles of clutter? Are there cobwebs? Spills that haven't been removed? Noticeable deterioration of their standard? Is there accumulating grime, mold, soap scum in water areas? Is it due to forgetfulness? mobility? depression?
- How are other living things faring? How are the plants doing? Are they being neglected? How are their pets? Are they physically active- 'normal' for their age? Are they being groomed and trimmed regularly? Are they being fed, walked or outside regularly? Are cat boxes being changed regularly? Is dog waste removed from yard?
- Walk around their grounds. Check for needed home maintenance - gutters, garden hoses, safety issues, vermin, damages from storms, do they need more help?
- Talk to neighbors and friends - listen for comments like: "we don't see her much" - "she never comes outside" - "he talked about having MD tests - we were wondering if he's ok". Listen to their concerns - in their voices and questions. They may know something that your parent didn't share with you.
If you have a parent with Dementia - know that they are 'in the moment' - but the smells - sounds-sights of the holidays can provoke emotional responses of joy. Take time -away from the busy - to cook a favorite food, baked item, play Christmas Carols, enjoy potpourri with pine, cinnamon or peppermint, share photo albums and fun memories.
Less is more - too much activity can be overwhelming to both older parents as well as very young children.
Enjoy your holidays - and your families!