The holidays are the perfect time to catch up with family members, enjoy the company of loved ones, and take time to evaluate your aging parents’ needs. During the holiday season, you may notice some differences in the way they speak, interact and behave. Pay attention, as these may be signs it is time to discuss their needs.
A noticeable sign of aging is slowed tempo, including a slower speech pattern, taking more time to recall names or construct sentences, and a slower reaction time. While this may be a normal part of the aging process, it is important to notice as these could indicate mental conditions that may require additional help.
Forgetfulness is easy to write off with the heightened craziness of the holidays. However, being inattentive can be harmful to your parents’ safety and the safety of others. Are they frequently misplacing objects, or forgetting to turn off the stove? Not only can these actions cause frustration in your parents, but they can also be dangerous to their health.
There are more subtle signs such as a shorter temper, driving less or showing difficult in navigating around their own home. It can become increasingly difficult to perform tasks like bending, reaching and taking the stairs. Note any excessive spending on holiday gifts and meals, as these can all be early signs of dementia.
It may just be the added stress of holidays, but they could also be warning signs that they are in need of a little assistance. Here’s how you can help:
Assess the Home
While you’re visiting your parents over the holidays, assess their home for safety and accessibility. Are stairs going to present a problem in the near future? Is the kitchen easy to navigate, and are items in cabinets within reach? Falls are the number one injury among the elderly, so pay close attention to the floors for tripping hazards. New flooring can be both a safety precaution and redecorating tip you can make, and offer to help install.
Part of your assessment should include your parent’s driving. Are there unusual dents in their car that might indicate increased recklessness? Are they driving slower, faster or more erratic? Poor driving can be detrimental to the safety of your parents and others.
Make it a Team Effort
Your aging parents need to know they are not alone in this process, and so do you. Speak with your siblings and other loved ones about your concerns and ask them to pay attention to changes too. When the time comes to speak with your parents, include the family in a gentle way that doesn’t resemble an intervention. Conversations may be difficult, but having the family together creates an environment of support, kindness and empathy.
Start the Conversation
During the holiday season, the last thing you want your parents feeling is attacked. Keep the conversation light and personal. Speaking in “I” statements will help you convey your thoughts without offending your parents. For example, say, “I noticed that your plates are pretty high up in the cabinets. Maybe we could move them down a shelf so they aren’t such a bother.”
Saying, “You dented the car, should you really be driving at your age?” is both accusatory and harsh. For tips on talking to your parents about driving, AARP provides some helpful tools.
This is not always an easy process. It may require multiple conversations and be uncomfortable at certain points. Remember that this is a delicate topic and requires persistence, sensitivity and compassion.
When the time comes to provide care for your loved ones, give Assisting Hands a call.