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Noticing the need: Checking on Aging Parents

By Peter DiMaria

Once in a while, we get the chance to spend quality time with family members. Getting together is a great way to cherish old memories, make new ones, and check in on our aging loved ones. Perhaps you haven’t seen or spoken to them in quite some time.

As you reminisce about years past, take a moment to evaluate your parents and other aging loved ones. Do they seem different since you saw them last? Are they remembering events accurately and laughing along with you? Is Mom struggling to get out of her chair?  Does Grandma have an angry edge to her voice that just doesn’t seem right? Is your aging loved one neglecting personal hygiene and household cleanliness? Do you notice any weight gain or loss? Are they complaining more than usual? Are they enjoying the same foods and drinks they usually do? How are their finances?

There are so many things to think about when it comes to our aging loved ones’ health and happiness. I’d like to share a few tips for ensuring they are safe, healthy and living well in their homes.

  • Conduct an evaluation. More than likely, it’s you who know your parents best and will notice fairly quickly if something seems “off” about Mom or Dad. Write a dated note detailing your observations so that if an issue develops, you can track its progression.
  • If you do notice something, start a discussion. Ease into a conversation about what you’re observing by asking in general terms how your loved one is feeling and faring. This will lead to a more open conversation than if you launch in with questions regarding the specific issue that concerns you.
  • Put in a call to your loved one’s primary care physician. There might be something going on that Mom or Dad is too embarrassed or ashamed to share. Perhaps there are things that you could be doing to help.
  • Do your research. Take some time to develop a list of options, so that you’re prepared in the event your loved one’s care needs escalate and help is needed. It’s better to be prepared than to scramble at the last minute. Preparedness makes it easier for the senior as well as the family to accept help.
  • Have the conversation. Instead of surprising your loved one with the suggestion that they receive extra care, warm them up to the idea early on. That way, they will be more open about the option because it won’t seem so foreign.

The human body ages; that is inevitable. Knowing this, we should be in tune with our seniors so we can help them anticipate needs and be prepared for the challenges that will arise in the near future.