Before you know it, the holiday rush will be upon us. Often, for adult children, it is one of the few times they get to see mom and dad during the year. Families can be separated by distance (and much more) and caregiving from afar can be difficult, stressful and time-consuming.

Be Alert

When visiting, use your senses: What are your eyes, ears, taste, touch, smell telling you?

Is their home being kept up? Are they having trouble with chores? Is it safe and sanitary? Track the chores you do as they could point to services your loved one may need when you are not there.

Watch for Physical and Behavioral Changes

Has there been any sudden weight gain, weight loss, decline in general hygiene, bruises or injuries to your loved one? Is their strength and balance OK?

Check to see if they have been limited in any way from doing the things they normally do. Arthritis, vision and hearing problems could be playing a part. They may try to conceal it, so be vigilant.

Check for dehydration or malnourishment? Are they eating regularly? Can they prepare meals? Are they eating nutritiously?

What about their clothes? Are they walking around in their PJ’s all day? Are their clothes worn and tattered?

Are your loved ones placing items in wrong places, missing appointments? This could indicate cognitive and physical issues at play.

Watch for Exploitation

Is there anything missing, or have there been any large-scale purchases? This could indicate some type of exploitation by others.

Do they have a new best friend? While 99 percent of home-care staff are perfectly ethical, bad seeds prey on older adults. If your loved one will only talk to you with that person present, it could signal trouble.

Start examining bank accounts for any mysterious activity as well as monitor bills coming in and payments going out. Are bill collectors calling or showing up at the house?

Unopened mail could indicate memory problems, vision problems or hint at financial problems. Sweepstakes circulars could indicate your loved one or someone else is responding to offers.

Check Meds

Expired medications can be dangerous. Check the dates and dispose of old medications properly. Is your loved one taking more prescriptions than before?

Now What – I Think They Need Help

There is a delicate art on how to communicate with an elder. You want to enjoy the time you have with them, not spend it bickering.

One of the toughest conversations caregivers often have is when to take the car keys away. And the first time that might crop up is when you visit and go for a ride with them. Plan a conversation in your head first, then broach the topic.

  • Determine with your loved ones, what assistance they need.
  • Inventory information on community services.
  • Schedule a visit with their physician while you are in town.
  • Identify social supports nearby – friends, neighbors, clergy. Meet these people while you are there.

As a caregiver, you can’t do everything yourself and you can’t do everything at once. Advance planning for your older age is paramount. That goes for the caregiver and the parent.

If you need a primer on stepping into caregiving, there are numerous resources out there.

With patience, love, help and support, you will become a caregiving hero!

Are you planning to visit your parents or older relatives for the holidays? Are you prepared for what you might find? Have you ever dropped in for a visit with an older adult who looked in trouble? How did you recognize the signs? Please share your thoughts and stories below.

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