Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Holidays Can Help Show You How Your Parents Live.

This time of year is a great time to see where your elderly parents are with their health and living conditions. For those of us who live right in the area or with their parents and see them on a consistent basis, it can be hard for us to differentiate any changes. We see them in all their ups and downs, from stomach aches, back aches, headaches; not being hungry, not being thirsty, no sleep, hours of sleep. It is just another day - sometimes.

During visits from siblings or relatives and friends who are NOT around all the time, take the opportunity to allow them to spend time with the parents. Let them see them for a few hours; whether you leave the house or not, let them cater to the folks. This way they can gain a perspective of how they are - they may see things you can't. Then sit and discuss how they find the parents, how they have changed between visits. I would find that sometimes my mom would do better with someone else; I probably drove her crazy at times. She would be able to remember different things and carry on better conversations with someone different. She would be more apt to say 'yes' to tea and a snack, walk a little more. On the other hand, some would comment on how often she repeated herself, would lose herself in a conversation, wouldn't remember a recent visit or appointment. So I would just put all the information together in a diary for the doctor to help me see what could be going on.

The ElderCarelink has some easy things to look for while visiting.

1. Do they seem depressed? If your parents are sleeping too much, have no interest in their hobbies, or have a decreased appetite, they may be suffering from depression. Ask someone who sees them frequently about their moods when you aren't there.
2. Are they having balance problems? If a parent is walking unsteadily, insist they see a doctor. Balance problems could be an early sign of an inner ear infection, bad joints or even dementia.
3. Have they lost a lot of weight? Look in their refrigerator and pantry to make sure they have nutritious food on hand. If eating isn't the issue, suggest they get a complete physical to discover the reason behind the weight loss.

I used to keep in mind that the holidays were tough on mom since dad and my grandparents had all passed and no matter how we tried to keep things light and busy and festive, there were always incidents that brought back memories - even as simple as one of the boys doing something that my dad used to do or seeing old pictures. These things are not inherently bad but can put someone in a depressed mood. We would just try to look at events that are coming up, like weddings or trips or visits from people who we haven't seen in a while. Another thing that helped was SKYPE. My husband and I would arrange times with out-of-state relatives, finding out when they would be home. We would contact them and mom would be able to see them and talk for however long they all lasted in front of the laptop. It really made her happy to be able to see them, they could talk about the old days and sometimes see each others children and grandchildren -- almost like being there!! Sometimes these 'visits' were far better than any gift in a box.


  1. I totally agree! I have found that you can really tell a lot about an older person if you observe them at family functions. You can tell the decline from one function to the next.

    1. It is amazing how fast things can change with the older folks. Makes it a little scary for the rest of us as we get older.


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