December 5th, 2011 at 10:21 am
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Holidays provide an opportunity to gauge elders’ well-being

by Dorian Martin

Like many young adults, my brother Steve and I moved away from home to follow our dreams. With the exception of a four-year period in the late 1990s, we never lived closer than a three-hour drive to our parents’ house. That wasn’t a problem early on, but as our parents reached their late 70s, Steve and I increasing found it difficult to gauge how they were doing physically and mentally. Like many adult children, we found that the best time to get a handle on our parents’ status was during holiday visits.

Elders and the holidays

Unfortunately, monitoring an elder’s situation during the holidays can be a real challenge. First of all, family members often focus on tales from past holidays when the adult children were still young. And many family members secretly have hopes for one more celebration with everyone joyously gathered together in a setting worthy of a Hallmark card.

So how can you get a good handle on an elder’s status without messing up the holidays for everyone? Here are three suggestions to consider:

  1. Check the status of the housekeeping. My mom was always neat and tidy, especially during the holidays when she was expecting us. That changed during Christmas in 2003. When Steve and I arrived home, we found a mess. There wasn’t a clear kitchen counter and several days of dirty dishes were stacked in the sink. The rest of the house was a little better, but not by much. That holiday put us on notice that something wasn’t right. It turns out that Mom was increasingly experiencing mild cognitive impairment and lung disease, and Dad didn’t know how to step in to help.
  2. Go on an outing and let the elder drive. Often, adult children grab the car keys when the family travels somewhere. By being a passenger, you can see how the elder reacts in traffic and determine if it’s nearly time to take the keys away from your elder.
  3. Check with the elders’ neighbors or friends. If elders have lived in the same place for awhile, they probably have developed numerous relationships. If you can, check with these friends to get their perspective on how the elders are doing.

The holidays offer a time when adult children can quietly get a handle on the well-being of their elders. Use your visit wisely to not only enhance your relationships and build memories with your elders, but to determine if they are starting to need more assistance.

Posted in Caregiving, Other | 2 Comments »
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2 Comments to “Holidays provide an opportunity to gauge elders’ well-being”

  1. Dorian Martin

    Great idea, Kaye! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kaye Swain

    Great article with many practical suggestions. Another tip is to check inside the refrigerator to make sure they are eating healthily and not leaving food to spoil.

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