By Lisa Bayer, J.D., CCM
The holidays are often a time that family members who have not seen one another get together to celebrate. Whether you are traveling or hosting there are several “warning signs” that your elderly loved one needs extra attention.
You notice that your mom’s clothes are not fitting well. In fact, they seem to be falling off of her. Or, you see it in her face. This could be a sign of illness (causing loss of appetite) or even dementia (forgetting to eat meals). If your mom cannot provide a satisfactory reason for the loss of weight it would be prudent to make an appointment to see her doctor.
You visit your dad and you notice a pile of unopened mail on the dining room table. The dates on the envelopes go back several months. You ask him about it and he tells you not to worry. You cannot help but be concerned. If your dad agrees it may be a good idea to go through the mail together and set up a bill payment plan going forward. If you suspect something else is going on, such as difficulty seeing or even depression, you can help him address these concerns.
Your favorite aunt comes to visit. At first things seem totally fine. She’s happy to see you and the kids. You fill her in on what is going on in your lives and ask her how how she is doing. And then she asks the same question she just asked again. And again. This could be a warning that she is experiencing the start of dementia. The sooner she gets diagnosed and treated the better.
While it may be difficult to see your family members getting older and you may wish that you could ignore the warning signs it helps to look at this opportunity to help as a good thing.Without your intervention things could continue to get worse. Now, you have the opportunity to make a difference; to help your loved ones improve their health and quality of life. This is perhaps the best gift you can give to your loved one–and yourself.