Visiting a Senior Loved One for the Holidays? What to be Aware of During Your Stay.
November 22, 2016
Heading home to spend some time with mom or dad for the holidays? As many adult children are no longer within an easy commute of their senior loved ones, the Holiday Season is a great opportunity to reconnect, spend quality time catching up and relive old times and nostalgia. The holidays bring back so much history and great memories, making it a perfect time to have family and friends to rekindle them with.
It’s also a good time to gain some perspective regarding your loved one’s status and how things are going. Many seniors are hesitant to express when things change in their lives, particularly when it comes to a decline in their physical abilities. For seniors, changes can happen very quickly. As many seniors fear losing their independence, they will often not volunteer information over the phone regarding changes in their condition or financial status, leaving you with a very inaccurate picture of how they’re doing. Unfortunately this can result in unaddressed issues that can further complicate the situation and lead to hospitalization or financial crisis. Here are a few things to consider on your next visit with your senior loved one:
- Physical Changes: Everyone changes over time, and those changes become more noticeable and occur more quickly as we age. However, pronounced changes can be a red flag that something more serious is occurring. Noticeable weight loss is common indicator of a potential health condition, such as cancer, gastrointestinal disease, hyperthyroidism or even dementia. Other factors such as depression, medications or loss of taste can also result in weight loss. Discuss this change with your loved one and make sure arrangements have been made to consult with a physician.
- Mood Changes: Our moods are affected by a multitude of factors in our lives. Changes in lifestyle or a decline in physical condition can result in very noticeable mood changes. If your loved one was typically a very positive or talkative person and is now sullen and withdrawn or overly negative, they may be suffering from depression. Mood swings may also indicate the onset of dementia. Stress or medications can have pronounced impact on moods as well. Have a candid and objective conversation with your loved one about what you’ve noticed to help narrow down a potential root cause.
- Injuries: Many conditions can result in a loss of balance or weakened condition, resulting a falls, bumps, bruises or even breaks. Cuts, scrapes or bruising on the knees, elbows, hands or face can be indicators that your loved one is falling or losing balance. This could be the result of a serious medical condition and it’s important to seek help from a physician before your loved one is seriously injured or suffers a decline in condition.
- Lifestyle Changes: Was your mom typically meticulous around the house but now you find the sink piling with dishes and everything in disarray? Was dad once proud of his appearance but now rarely showers and has worn the same outfit for weeks? Mail and bills piling up on the counter? Changes in hygiene, cleanliness, habits and attention to responsibilities can indicate a decline in cognition, mental state or physical condition. Depression can sap the desire of a senior to maintain their home or lifestyle. Dementia can result in behavioral changes and simply forgetting to attend to themselves. Weakness or pain caused by an underlying physical condition can make a senior incapable of keeping up with household chores or self maintenance. Financial changes can also affect a persons ability or desire to maintain their usual standards.
Could it be Abuse or Neglect? Any of the conditions noted above could also be the result of abuse or neglect, particularly if there’s someone else actively involved in a seniors life, such as a caregiver or another family member. It’s critical to understand and be able to identify key indicators of potential abuse and neglect and have a conversation with your loved one about these concerns. Please see this link to the National Center on Elder Abuse for more information. If you suspect abuse or neglect, make sure to contact your local Adult Protective Service office right away!
Seniors living alone can exhibit any or all of these characteristics. During your visit, if you notice changes such as those noted here, it’s important not rush to judgment and make impulsive or emotionally based decisions. Make sure to respect your loved one’s right to self-determination. Have an objective conversation with them about your concerns and assist them with making arrangements to see a physician, mental health specialist and/or pharmacist to determine the root cause. Often changes in condition can be addressed if caught soon enough, and with medical attention or a little assistance, your loved one may be able to regain their independence and lifestyle!
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