The holidays are busy times, filled with activities, traditions, and visits with family and friends. It’s often the time when those who live apart geographically can spend extended, precious time together.
If you haven’t seen the older adults in your life over several months or years, it’s not unusual not to notice changes until you are together for a few hours or days. You may observe uncharacteristic behavior, lifestyle changes, and routines.
The following are common signs that may signal a cause for concern and action. Use the Cause for Concern checklist at right for clues or changes that warrant attention. (Click on the checklist for a full-sized version.)
The more items you answered YES to in the Cause for Concern checklist, the higher the likelihood your older loved one needs support. Even if you responded YES to just one question, you will benefit from being proactive and planning ahead.
What next? Be proactive!
Whether you live close by or at a distance, there are steps you can take to ensure your loved one’s health and well-being:
- Talk with older loved ones. Start with a conversation and talk about your concerns. Consider including other people who care about your loved ones in the conversation, such as family, close friends, or clergy who may be able to come alongside your loved one as they make these changes.
- Regular checkups. If you’re worried about weight loss, depressed mood, memory loss, or other signs and symptoms, such as those described above, encourage your loved one to schedule a doctor’s visit. This can help identify and address any possible causes of changes. Ask about follow-up visits as well. Offer to go with them and take notes. Remind them how nice it is to have an advocate.
- Take care of safety issues. We can’t cover our loved ones in bubble wrap, but we can review any potential safety concerns with them. Start by prioritizing what needs to be addressed first. Then suggest small, manageable changes so they don’t become overwhelmed. Include your loved one in the discussion and decisions. Go at a pace they can accept.
- Seek help from local agencies. In Seattle-King County, Community Living Connections (toll-free 844-348-KING) is your front door to free information about local programs and services that can help meet your loved one’s needs. Community Living Connections can also connect you to similar services in other parts of the country.
- Engage an Aging Life Care™ expert. Also known as a geriatric care manager, an Aging Life Care expert is a health and human services specialist who acts as a guide and advocate for families who are caring for older relatives or disabled adults. Visit the Aging Life Care Association website to locate an expert near you.
It’s not always easy or comfortable talking with parents or other older loved ones about concerns. Sometimes they won’t admit they need help, and other times they don’t realize they need support. Assure your loved ones that their health and well-being are a priority for you and that you are in this together. Fortunately, there are many options and resources for supporting them and you.
You are not in this alone!
Contributor Amanda Lewis, BA, CMC, is a Certified Care Manager at Aging Wisdom. She assists clients living with severe chronic medical conditions to optimize their health and quality of life.