We all know the December drill – many of us pack up the kids in the ole minivan and head to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the holidays. Chances are, if you live more than a few hours away, it’s been at least a couple months since you’ve last seen them. If this rings true to what your holiday season looked like, you may have noticed progressive signs of mental decline or physical aging during your visit.
We all want to believe that our parents are invincible – they raised us, right? But this just isn’t the case. Your occasional trips home might amplify the rate at which you realize your parents are having difficulty. Although they may have seemed “all there” and able to get around the house during your trip over Memorial Day weekend, this may not be the case when Christmas rolls around.
Here are some common concerns you may have after visiting your aging parents for the holidays and things you can do:
When driving may no longer be safe for your parent
The concern: When you visit your aging parent over the holidays, you find out that Mom feels uncomfortable driving or you notice vehicle damage.
What to do: Talk to your mom about where she typically goes and how often. If no family members live nearby, perhaps there is a neighbor or friend who could pick her up on their way to the grocery store each week. You could also set up a home delivery service such as Amazon Prime Now or Shipt.
Depending on where your parents live, you could look into readily available public transportation. If this isn’t an option, try researching paratransit services in your parents’ area. This service is for those who are unable to ride fixed-route public transportation. If you still are unsure, contact your local Fieldstone senior living community for senior-friendly transportation recommendations.
If your aging mother is having trouble getting around the house
Concern: You notice that your mom is having more difficulty getting around the house than the last time you saw her. Maybe she is having trouble going up and down the stairs, preparing meals or getting dressed.
What to do: Ask her how she feels physically and what would make it easier for her to get around. You can help her look into at-home care or making her home more accessible. For instance, get a seat installed in the shower or make sure all kitchen items are easy to reach. There are also companies targeted to seniors such as Buck & Buck that make clothing designed for easy dressing.
If you see signs of memory loss in your loved one
Concern: On your visit, you may see evidence of memory loss in your parent such as withdrawal from hobbies or social activities, trouble completing everyday tasks or confusion about time and place. It can be very upsetting to watch a parent’s cognitive abilities deteriorate over time, but it’s important to acknowledge what’s happening and take action steps before things get worse.
What to do: Don’t dive into a conversation about your parent’s failing memory without proper preparation. Make sure to think through how to approach the subject and do so in a sensitive, empathetic way. Encourage a two-way conversation about your concerns and come up with some solutions together, such as looking for in-home care, senior living options or even moving in with you or another family member who can be a caregiver.
Remember, you are not alone. There are many resources to help you cope with all stages of your loved one’s Alzheimer’s or dementia.
No matter the situation, there is a common: talk to your mom. Don’t make decisions for your parent; be supportive and act as a resource so you can make decisions together. Make sure also to talk with your siblings and other family members about how Mom is doing and ways you all can pitch in to make sure she is happy and safe.