In this day and age many families are spread across the country, with these winter holidays being their only chance to see each other during the year. This means that many adults are planning a trip this holiday season to visit aging parents they haven’t seen in months—or possibly haven’t seen in over a year! But what many people don’t anticipate is how much can change over a year, or even during a few short months. It is not unusual for adult children to find that their aging parents are not doing as well as they thought.
If a visit to your aging parents this holiday season brings up worries or concerns for you, or if you aren’t sure what to do or where to start, we have a few tips and suggestions that might help. Of course, every family will be different, but these suggestions can get you started down the road to ensuring your parents have the help and care they need.
1. First and foremost, talk to your parents.—some elderly people may be in denial about how much they need help, but many recognize when they begin losing the ability to care for themselves, and appreciate the opportunity to express their concerns and look for assistance.
2. Talk to your siblings—if you’ve noticed mom or dad aren’t doing so well, your siblings have probably noticed something too. Talking about the situation together may help you get a clearer picture of exactly what’s needed, and you may be able to plan the next steps together.
3. A recent article on the New York Times New Old Age Blog recommends contacting a geriatric care manager—this is someone who can work with you and your siblings together, someone “who can assess the situation, come up with a plan and supervise its execution.”
4. As also mentioned on the New Old Age Blog, sometimes the best thing to do is not to come in during the holidays and make snap decisions or sweeping changes, sometimes the best thing you can do is to make small, slow changes. The article points out that “engaging a bill-paying service or a chore service, a transportation program, a few hours a week of a home helper to handle laundry and shopping” can often make a huge difference.
5. Ask your parents if they have some kind of estate plan, or at the very least encourage them to have an advance healthcare directive or living will. If they do not have any kind of powers of attorney, try to help them find an estate planner or elder attorney they can trust and feel comfortable with, who can ensure they have the legal protections they need.