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Visiting Over the Holidays and Discovering Your Elderly Parent is Not Functioning So Well

This may have already happened in your life.  Perhaps you were with an elder relative at Thanksgiving and he/she just was not functioning as well as in the past.  You, and/or your family members know you must respond in some way, but, what to do?  Or, with Christmas coming, you know you need to implement some changes, or discuss the issue with your elderly loved one.

There is no one way to address the myriad of issues that can occur, but assessing your loved one’s safety in their living environment is a good place to start.  When safety is compromised, it is important to act quickly, and appropriately.  Engage your elderly loved one to get their perspective, and to understand their wishes for their care.  Discussing this with them will also help determine if they are understanding the risks that you see.  If there is local family who can become more involved, that is a great place to start.  Determine who can do what and how much time they can provide.  Determine what your loved one’s needs are, i.e., meal preparation, shopping, driving, doctor’s appointments, socialization, housekeeping, in-home care.  Sometimes, when possible, it is best to think this through by first considering the short term, and then the long term.  Especially in the case of health emergencies, resolving the immediate health issues where possible, and then determining a plan for the long term.

Regarding the long term, if matters seem overwhelming and you are unfamiliar with the resources in your loved one’s area, consider consulting with a specialist in elder care.  The local Area Agency on Aging (www.n4a.org/) can help with identifying resources, as can a geriatric care manager (www.caremanager.org).   Getting a geriatric assessment can help you look throughly at the situation and also enlists the assistance of an outside professional in the field of aging.  Sometimes employers provide an elder care benefit, so check to see if yours does, and access the benefit if you have it.

The bottom line, this is often the time of year when we find things are not what they were with the elders we love.  We must act in their best interest by assuring their safety and well-being.