As you clear away the holiday decorations and launch the new year, take a moment to review a few critical areas related to your loved ones and their well-being. Often the holidays are opportunities to see family we haven’t seen in a while, so it can also be a chance to take stock on how older relatives in particular are doing.
Take out a pen and pencil and write down some key observations while they are still fresh in your mind. Be sure to date it, and you can use this as a baseline for checking the next time you see your loved ones. It can help you determine when there may be a concern that warrants more attention.
Home: What condition was their home in? How did it smell? Did it seem to be as clean and tidy as usual? Had trash been taken out regularly? Were there any broken stairs or furniture that could be a hazard and may need repair?
Nutrition: Was the refrigerator empty, full, or usual? How well-stocked were the cabinets? Did the staples seem to be fairly fresh or old and outdated? How was mom’s appetite? Did she eat much? Was her appetite different from the last time you saw her? Did she seem interested in meals? Was there old food in the refrigerator?
Behavior: Did dad seem more tired than usual? Did he talk more, talk less, did his moods seem different or more changeable? Was he interested in his favorite shows or topics? Does he still participate in his favorite activities? Were there any changes in his vision or hearing?
Isolation: Is mom getting to the library as much as usual to volunteer? If she doesn’t seem to be participating in her usual activities, starting asking: ‘why.’ We also know that isolation can be an indicator of loneliness, and research shows that loneliness can be as significant a risk factor for health as high blood pressure.
Importance of asking ‘why’ again and again: Lifesprk CEO & Founder Joel Theisen stresses that asking why seven times often gets you to the heart of the issue. For example:
Why hasn’t mom been going out as much? Because she doesn’t feel comfortable driving
Why doesn’t she feel comfortable driving? Because it has been so icy this year
Why is this different from last year? Because she feels a little less confident on the ice
Why is she less confident? Because a friend fell and broke her hip
Why does she worry that this will happen to her? Because she finds she is losing her balance a bit more just walking around the house
Why does she think she is losing her balance more? Because she hasn’t been eating as much
Why hasn’t she been eating as much? Because the new medication is upsetting her stomach
Of course it is not always that simple. But it is a framework for starting the conversation and better understanding any changes that may occur with your parents. You want to be helpful, but you also want to respect their need for independence and control.
If your review of your holiday visit has raised any concerns or questions, start by talking with your parents and the rest of your family. Professional guidance from experts such as Lifesprk’s Navigators or Life Care Managers can also provide insights on how best to handle these situations, particularly if you encounter resistance as you raise the questions with family.
So start the new year off right – with some observations and notes that if nothing else help you create a record of a baseline on your loved one’s wellbeing.
Looking for more information on red flags to watch out for with your parents:
Got questions or concerns? Call Lifesprk Navigation 24/7 at 952-345-8770 or email ShineOn@lifesprk.com.