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Home for the Holidays? How to Tell if Your Parents Need Help

You’ve come home for the holidays and you’re thrilled to spend some time with your parents. It becomes apparent though that some changes have occurred since your last visit. Even if that was only a few months ago, changes can and sometimes do happen quickly. What should you watch out for and do next?

Tamara Ballard, Client Care Manager of Earth Angels Home Care in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia chats with Jennifer Naugler of Simple Local Life, about the signs you should look for to indicate that your parents may need help and what to do next. 

First, observe your parents, their home and the situation with fresh eyes. Try to be objective about what you see. Has the home always been immaculate and now it’s not? Or has it always been on the messy and cluttered side? It’s important to base your assessment on what’s normal for them.

Keep your eye on the following:

  1. Physical changes – Have they gained or lost weight? Are their sleeping patterns the same or are they sleeping more during the day? How is their balance and coordination? Are there any changes in mobility? Does your parent have difficulty getting up from a seated position?
  2. Emotional wellbeing – Is your parent still engaged in normal routines? Are mom and dad still going to church, seeing the hairdresser, playing cards with friends every week? Pay attention to whether they are still doing the things they enjoy, seeing people they care about and doing the tasks they’ve always done such as meal preparation, housekeeping, reading the paper etc.
  3. Medications- Are your parents taking their medications as they’re supposed to? Are there any expired bottles around the house?
  4. Home environment – Look around the house. Are there piles of mail/bills unopened? What is the state of the kitchen? Is there fresh, healthy food in the fridge? Look for signs of unsafe cooking such as scorched pots. Check if laundry is being done. Is the bathroom clean and sanitized? Be on the lookout for subtle changes and indications they may be having trouble.
  5. Observe them driving – How is their reaction time? Any unexplained dents in the car? Would you let your children drive with them?
  6. Personal care – Look for signs of infrequent bathing, body odors, decline in grooming habits, untrimmed nails, dirty clothing.
  7. 10 Warning Signs of Dementia – Be familiar with signs that your parent may be developing dementia vs. what is considered normal aging.
  • Memory loss affecting day-to-day abilities – Does your parent forget things often or struggle to retain new information you can tell them?
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks – Are there any signs of difficulty performing a task they’ve done all their life like using a coffee maker or using a washing machine?
  • Problems with language – Does your loved one forget words (most commonly nouns) or substitute inappropriate words?
  • Disorientation in time and space – Does your parent frequently not know the day of the week, month or year? Or not know how to get to a familiar place?
  • Impaired judgment – Does your parent dress appropriately for the weather? Are there any indications of financial mismanagement?
  • Problems with abstract thinking – Do they know how to balance a check book, how to use a calculator and what to do with money?
  • Misplacing things – Have you found any items in strange places like a wallet in the fridge?
  • Changes in mood and behaviour – Does your parent show any changes to their mood? Are they still the same easy-going person they’ve always been?
  • Changes in personality – Are there any behaviors that are out of character for your parent such as feeling paranoid or threatened?
  • Loss of initiative – Have they lost interest in friends, family or favourite activities?

If you have any concerns in these areas, here are some tips for what to do:

  1. Begin with an honest conversation with them; mention your concerns; discuss steps you can take to maintain their independence, health and safety.
  2. Address physical concerns with the primary care physician.
  3. Review medications with the doctor or pharmacist; get an up to date list; keep a list with you, put one in the home, give one to a relative who lives close by and put one in the wallet of your loved one for emergency situations.
  4. Set up a medication system – who will pick up medications, how will your loved one know which meds to take/time of day/how often; who will monitor the system?
  5. Housecleaning, laundry, bathing- Ask how they would feel about a caregiver coming in once or twice a week?
  6. Identify sources of support to be your eyes and ears when you go back home (friends, relatives, neighbours); make sure they have your contact info; ask them to check on specific things and to look around for piles of laundry, mail, unsafe cooking habits, spoiled food etc.
  7. Talk with the neighbours while you’re home – do they notice anything out of the ordinary?
  8. Keep channels of communication open with your loved ones.

Come in for a no obligation chat with us.  We’re aware of the warning signs of when help is needed and can help guide you on decisions. We can do an assessment while you’re here; if help isn’t needed right away, that’s okay. It’s never too early to start a conversation and to develop a relationship with partners who can help you. We’ll be here for you when the time is right.

If help is needed, we will meet with you to customize a plan and can start providing services right away. There are no long wait times, or complicated process. We make it easy for you and your parent.

If you want to honor a parent’s wish to stay in their own home, it’s important to know what to watch for and when to bring in help. Call us today at 1-855-530-6205.

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