Long distance family caregivers sometimes struggle to “see” how their parents are doing day to day or week to week. The distance between them and their loved ones makes it challenging to check in and assess physical and mental health without being intrusive. The holidays are a special time of year to visit with distant loved ones, and they also offer a unique opportunity to spend time in a parent’s home and make some mental notes about their health and safety. While you’re visiting your loved one during the next few weeks, here are a few things to keep your eyes opened for.
Grooming and Personal Care
Since your last visit, has mom’s personal care slipped? Is she bathing less often? Does her hair seem greasy when it’s always been well-kept? Is she losing weight? Do her clothes seem unwashed? While it’s normal to stay in your pjs a little longer over the holidays and maybe even skip a shower or two, a significant change in your loved one’s appearance could be a sign that physical or cognitive limitations are getting in the way of them completing certain activities of daily living on their own. To help solve this problem, a trip to the doctor might be in order to assess for physical decline, an underlying health problem or even early stage dementia.
The Condition of the Home
When there are a lot of people in and out of the home and holidays to celebrate, it’s normal to forget to vacuum or leave a few too many dishes in the sink. However, if your aging loved one’s home is in a more serious state of decline, make a mental note of it. Look for things like spoiled food in the refrigerator, pests or droppings in the pantry, mold and mildew in the shower and tub. These might be indicators that certain tasks are too physically demanding for mom or dad. Alternately, they might indicate some cognitive decline. Resolving this problem isn’t always quite as simple as bringing in a housecleaner. Depending on what’s going on with your aging loved one, they might need a bit more support and supervision, perhaps from a trusted friend, a nearby family member of even a professional in home caregiver.
If your mom has a beloved cat, dog or bird, no doubt the animal is an important source of friendship and companionship for her. However, if she is struggling to take care of the pet, not recognizing this and addressing it can put both your mom and the pet’s health in danger. If a pup is properly housetrained but soiling in the house, this might be an indication that walks aren’t happening as frequently as they need to, perhaps because your loved one is having a difficult time ambulating independently. If a favorite kitty looks like she’s losing weight or her little box hasn’t been changed in a long time, it might be an indication of physical decline or cognitive limitations. Sometimes, hiring a pet sitter or dog walker is enough to alleviate these problems. Sometimes, they are indications of a larger underlying concern.
A large dent in your dad’s favorite car or new scratches on the garage door can be cause for concern when it comes to driving safety for your aging loved one. To figure out if this is the case, take a ride as the passenger with your loved one behind the wheel. Use this as an opportunity to quietly evaluate their ability to drive safely. Drifting across lanes, unusually slow speeds or hesitations when stopping can all be indicators that driving skills may be slipping. This is an opportune time to visit a doctor, get your loved one’s eyes examined and dig a little deeper to find out why this problem is occurring.
Signs of physical and cognitive decline are not always easy to recognize when you live miles away from an aging loved one. The holidays offer a great opportunity to gauge how things are going so you can continue to help your parents to remain safe at home. Keep in mind that the holiday dinner table isn’t the time to bring up all your concerns, however. Set aside a little one on one time to do some talking and spend some time listening too. Make sure your loved one knows that your main concern is helping them to continue to reach their goals of aging in place. If you need help, Salus Homecare in South Bay is here for you. Call us anytime to talk or schedule a complimentary consultation.