Returning home for the holidays is a good time to assess your parents for caregiving needs. Typically you will find that parents aren’t as forthcoming about their needs over the phone or when asked. Here are some non-confrontational ways to assess how they’re doing;
Are they telling the same stories over and over again, but do not remember? Is the place messy when it would normally be clean and orderly? Are there signs of changes to routine maintenance like burned out lights, leaky faucets, or non-working appliances? These are things that can indicate that tasks that have been managed in the past have become challenging or overwhelming.
Fender benders, and nicks and scrapes on the sides of the car could indicate there’s a problem with driving. Perhaps visual and spatial skills have diminished or decision making while driving is more difficult.
Check out the refrigerator. Are there lots of takeout containers, expired or moldy foods? What are they eating? Dramatic weight gain could signal a diet of unhealthy snacks instead of nutritious foods, and dramatic weight loss could indicate that they are not eating much at all, or that they don’t like to eat alone. Assessing weight is best done with a big hug.
Observe how meals are prepared. Are they able to get the meal together, coordinate the prepping and cooking times? Red flags should go up if they don’t appear to make a traditional dish the way they’ve always made it in the past, or if they’re using the wrong ingredients, such as salt when the recipe calls for sugar.
Is it as well-kept as in the past? Is the bed made and are clothes put away? Does the bedside stand appear as it always has? A messy bedroom can contribute to night time falls.
Grooming and personal appearance:
Are they as well-kempt as in the past? Is hair length typical and is it styled as usual? Are clothes clean and in good repair? Are they continuing to bath at the same time or with the same frequency that you have seen in the past? Are there unusual bruises or scrapes visible? It could be cause for concern if they don’t smell clean, there is evidence they aren’t changing clothes regularly or if you suspect falls or difficulties navigating the house.
The medicine cabinet:
Ask them how they keep track of which prescription drugs to take, and when. Look for old prescriptions or pills stored in the wrong bottle. Check the floor, counters or other table surfaces for pills or capsules. This could indicate that medications are not being taken consistently or correctly.
If you find anything that makes you think something is not quite right, it might be time to initiate a caregiving conversation. Make sure that parents are included, ask them what they want to do about aging and really listen to what they say.
If you find you need assistance, please give Care Weavers a call!