Thursday, December 11, 2014
Celebrating and Reflecting
For adult children with aging parents, it's also a chance to reflect on how your loved ones are doing, both physically and mentally. The difference from one holiday to the next may be subtle, or shocking. In order to help your parents stay healthy and safe, the Mayo Clinic recommends asking yourself the following questions:
Are your parents taking care of themselves? Pay attention to their appearance: Are they keeping up with their personal grooming? What about their clothes — are they clean or in disrepair? Are your parents experiencing memory loss? Modest memory problems are a fairly common part of aging, such as forgetting appointments or where the keys are. Are memory changes more concerning, such as forgetting common words when speaking, getting lost in familiar neighborhoods, or being unable to follow directions?
Are your parents safe in their home? Is it tidy or is it uncommonly messy or dirty? Are there repairs that are being neglected? Is it safe, meaning grab bars or hand rails in place where needed, no loose rugs or mats to trip on, well lit, and smoke and/or carbon monoxide monitors and alarms are functioning? Are your parents safe on the road? If your parents become confused while driving or you're concerned about their ability to drive safely, it may be time for them to stop driving. This can be a difficult loss of independence. Many seniors make the transition by utilizing a service, such as Access or Access-a-Ride, or other local options.
Have your parents lost weight? Losing weight without trying could be a sign that something's wrong. Are your parents having difficulty preparing their meals? They may have lost their sense of taste or smell. An underlying medical condition could also be the cause, such as malnutrition, dementia, depression or cancer.
Are your parents in good spirits? A drastically different mood could be a sign of depression or other health concerns. According to AgingCare.com, signs include: an “empty” feeling, ongoing sadness, and anxiety; tiredness, lack of energy; loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities; sleep problems; eating more or less than usual; crying often; aches and pains that don't go away when treated; difficulty in focusing, remembering or making decisions; feeling guilty, helpless, worthless or hopeless; feeling irritable; thoughts of suicide or death. Listen carefully to see if your loved one is asking for help.
Are your parents able to get around? Do they seem to have any difficulty in walking around the house or usual distances? Are they having problems walking up and down stairs? Do they seem steady of their feet? Have they fallen? Falling is a major cause of disability among older adults.
Even if you live far away, here are some tips on how you can help:
Share your concerns with your parents openly and honestly. Consider including other family members or friends in the conversation. This should be done in a caring, compassionate way as it may be a difficult conversation for your parents.
Encourage regular medical checkups. If possible, make arrangements to accompany your parents to the doctor or ask another family member or friend to do so.
Address safety issues. Help make a plan to resolve any possible safety issues.
Consider home care services. This can be as basic as hiring someone to help with cleaning, cooking and errands. If your parents need more assistance, a home health aide can help with bathing, dressing and other activities of daily living. If remaining in their home is too challenging or unsafe, discuss the possibility of moving to an assisted living facility.
Contact their doctor for guidance. If you believe your parents' health and safety are at risk and they disagree, see if their doctor has permission to speak with you about their health and needs.
Seek help from local agencies. Contact the local Area Agency on Aging or Department of Aging for information and resources regarding appropriate services that may be available to assist your aging parents.
Realizing the extent of your parents' aging and their growing needs can be overwhelming. Ask for help — it's available. Working together, seniors and their adult children, family members, friends and other resources can help keep them safe and healthy for years to come.
For more information, please visit the Jewish Home's website at www.jha.org/resources/jewish-home-community-education.asp or call our toll-free Connections to Care hotline at 855-227-3745. We are here to help you and your loved ones.