Holiday family gatherings are not just good for catching-up; they are an opportunity to assess your aging loved one's status and needs. Certain clues can reveal a decline in mental or physical abilities. Below are some red flags to watch out for:
Mom, None of Your Clothes Fit: Changes in physical appearance can often be a red flag for the ill health of a loved one, especially evident weight loss. Does your loved one have a hard time using utensils?
Is the print on food labels too small for them to read? Certain medications have been known to affect the way food tastes, and weight loss can also be a result of a more serious medical condition.
On The Move: Changes in mobility are common with aging adults, but some signs of lessened movement are more concerning than others. Keep an eye on how your loved one is moving. Are there signs of physical pain or evidence your loves on is unsteady or dizzy on their feet. Do they hold on to household objects while walking? Can they navigate stairs safely? Updates to your loved one's living environment may need to be made in order to keep them safe and mobile.
Giving Attitude: While it may be hard to gauge a person's emotional well-being over the phone, take time face-to-face during the holidays to check in with your loved one. Note if they seem withdrawn, have loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy, or significant changes in sleep patterns. Sudden outbursts, uncharacteristic anger or lashing out is also a sign for concern. These behaviors could be indicators of depression or other ailments associated with declining mental function.
What do I do now? Any of these changes mean that it is time to start the conversation about long-term care wishes and plans. Identify resources to help you start the conversation, and make transitions without confusion or anger. Make sure your loved one has a Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy and Living Will so that you have the legal authority to help as well as the ability to get information about finances and health care.
For tips on having the elder care conversation, visit us at www.conaelderlaw.com to download our free tip sheet: "Elder Care Conversations: Speak with COMPASSION" or call us at 631.390.5000.
While enjoying the holiday season, take advantage of this time with your aging loved ones to assess their situation and needs.