Thanksgiving is right around the corner and with it, the holiday season officially begins. If you are like the host of other Americans that celebrate by gathering with family and sharing a delicious meal, it’s a great time to assess the health, both physical and mental, of the aging member(s) of your group.
Holidays are a prime time for families to detect dementia in a family member, according to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve seen your older family members. While it’s certainly an exciting time, it’s also an extremely stressful time — regular routines are disrupted, and large groups of people means noise and excitement — it’s sort of a perfect storm of a time to determine if your aging loved one is exhibiting signs of memory loss.
If you spend Thanksgiving at your senior’s home, a quick bit of detective work will give you some insight into their mental health. Remember to do this stealthily! This is not the time for confrontation, but an opportunity to gauge if your loved ones are living their best lives.
Take a good look (and smell)
Has there been obvious weight loss? People with memory loss often forget to eat. If they are depressed, which often happens when someone begins to experience mental acuity changes, they may decide that cooking is too much bother.
How is their personal hygiene? Are clothes clean? Make note of their grooming to determine any odd or peculiar changes in their regular appearance.
In the house
Check the refrigerator for expired food. Or multiples of the same food. Take a look in the living areas; are they clean and free of clutter? Peek at more personal spaces. While common areas might have been picked up in anticipation of guests, out-of-the-way areas like bathtubs and closets might give a truer picture of a senior’s ability to keep up with general tasks. If they have plants or animals, are they thriving?
Is there any unopened mail hanging about? Paying bills, especially, may seem overwhelming. According to Forbes, financial decision-making capacity erodes early on in those suffering with memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.
Talk to neighbors
If you aren’t around much, talk to those who are. If you happen to see neighbors, ask if they have noticed any changes in your senior loved one. A certain red flag is isolation. If they don’t see your senior as often as they used to, it can be cause for concern. Now is the perfect time to exchange phone numbers and ask them to contact you if they see anything remiss.
If you do suspect that there are changes in your senior loved one’s mental acuity, don’t hide your head in the sand. Take the opportunity to talk to other family members and make a plan of action. The first step? Consult your elder’s primary care physician and in the meantime, perhaps enlist some help.
From all of us at Caregiverlist, we wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to gather together as family and evaluate the needs of your senior loved one. This is the time, for many families, when siblings will be together and we feel it’s a great opportunity to review the safety and well-being of mom and/or dad.
We at Caregiverlist publish a list of issues for family discussion. Remember to get your senior involved and really listen to what they have to say.
Treated early, some age-related illnesses can be given the proper medical attention in order to slow progression. Take the time to think about any care needs your senior relative may need as their health conditions change. It is sometimes easier for those who do not see their parents and grandparents often to notice changes than for those who have daily interactions with them. How is their hearing? Their vision? Are your elder relatives getting dressed, washed and prepared for their day? Are they taking their medications at a regular time each day? Are they exercising as part of their daily routine? How is their diet?
Ask your senior family member what their week is like. Who are their friends? What are they doing? Healthy aging requires maintaining physical and mental exercise and socialization. Do they belong to any clubs or church groups? How would they feel about attending an adult day care center for a chance to get out of the house and enjoy both mental and social stimulation?
Who is taking care of mom and/or dad? What are there day-to-day needs? Sometimes it is necessary to involve a family member or caregiving service to assist with care needs, at least part-time, as abilities change.
If you live far away from senior family members, take the time to investigate senior care options in their town when you are visiting. Find out what quality Senior Home Care Agencies are in their area and learn about senior service programs. Obtain names and numbers so you will be able to contact someone to assist if the need should arise. And if family is not nearby, seniors nationwide may turn to their local Area Agency on Aging to learn about community senior care services and programs such as meal delivery, transportation and senior activities.
Distance caring is a reality for many families. Thanksgiving is a joyous time to be together and give thanks that we have the opportunity to make decisions to better assist those we love to age well.