Checking in on aging parents during the holidays can be stressful for adult children. But this is an opportunity to observe our parents and to check in to see if they are making any physical or cognitive changes that may need additional attention. As adult children, it is never easy to admit that our parents are aging. We want to always see them as we remember them when we were young. It might be uncomfortable for us and make us feel as if there has been a role reversal. But wait, we have gotten older, so why shouldn’t our parents?
When visiting parents we have not seen in a while, there are things we might observe that may lead us to take a more in depth look at their situation.
When you arrive at their home, is the yard overgrown or does it look like they are able to keep up? Some aging parents may not even be aware that their yard needs any attention. If you notice your parent’s yard is not being kept up, talk with them about this. If your parent(s) have always worked in the yard, is there a physical deficiency that keeps them from doing this any longer? Perhaps there is a simple solution. If finances are available, offer to have someone care for their yard. This will take stress off your parents and will give you peace of mind knowing it is being taken care of. Additionally, if you live far away, you can take comfort knowing someone will periodically be checking in on your parents.
Have your parents always been able to move about without the assistance of a walker or cane? Or do they now need the assistance of one of these and are too proud or in denial and so they do not seek the aid of one of these tools. This type of thinking may cause accidents. Since physical responses tend to not be as quick as they used to, falls may occur more frequently, presenting more opportunity for broken bones. Does your parent need to hold onto furniture to go from one room to the next? This is known as “furniture surfing.” This is a sign there may be more serious issues resulting in imbalance.
Do your parents still drive? Ask your parents to take you for a drive around town. If you are not comfortable riding with them, it may be time to have further talks about their driving. If you do ride with them, look for signs such as neck issues or arthritis issues that may be an issue for quickly responding to a challenging driving situation.
As we age, all of us experience age related cognition issues. For example, forgetting someone’s name is much different than forgetting if you ate for breakfast. Don’t read too much into your parent forgetting some things. However, if they cannot remember if they paid a bill or took a bath, it may be time for further observation.
What happens if you notice the beginning signs of any of these? It is possible there may just be a medication issue. Ask your parents what medications they are taking and how they keep up with this. Then you can compare it to the instructions on the bottle.
Keep your eyes open and observe. If you are still concerned, it may be time to have a conversation of the heart. Do not talk to your parent like they are a child. Convey your concern. Ask questions like, when was the last time they had a physical. Or express your concern that unsafe driving may harm someone else. You know your parent better than anyone and you also know that parents want their children, yes, even if they are adult children, to “be pleased” with them. Chances are. if the conversation is from the point of love and concern, the outcome will be favorable.
Taking it a step further, if you have children of your own, imagine that someday they will be having these same conversations with you. Try talking with your parent the same way you want to be spoken to when the roles change, again.