Once again the holiday season is upon us, a time of joy but also stress. We often visit family members we haven’t seen in some time and that’s when changes in older loved ones become more noticeable. Some of the changes that may indicate your loved one needs some extra help:
- Weight loss
- Deterioration in personal hygiene
- Unusually dirty or messy home
- Unusually loud or quiet, paranoid or agitated behavior
- Local friends and relatives noticing changes in behavior
- Self-imposed isolation, stops attending activities
- Signs of forgetfulness such as unopened mail, piling newspapers, missed appointments, unfilled prescriptions
- Signs of poorly managed finances, such as not paying bills, losing money, paying bills twice
- Unusual purchases
So what should you be doing if you see any of the above? A physical and neurological exam should identify any medical issues. A Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) can help assess the options available that will allow your loved one to continue to live a full, fruitful and safe life. Suggestions may include a home health aide, adult day care, and personal organizer to help with money management.
If your loved one can no longer live alone, possible alternative living arrangements include another family member’s home, assisted living, senior housing or nursing home. Each choice has pros and cons and expense is often an issue. Planning should be done as early as possible to determine how to pay for what could, in the future, be several thousand dollars or more a month in long term care expenses. That might include self funding with the purchase of financial products or qualifying for government benefits such as Medicaid and Veteran’s benefits or possibly both.
Because the family is together once again, the holidays are a good time to begin discussing these difficult decisions. For example, if one child lives nearby an aging parent and sees the decline on a daily or weekly basis, and the other child does not, there is often a tendency for that second child to downplay or minimize the decline, often basing his/her opinion on phone calls with the parent. But seeing the parent and visiting their home can alter that perception.
Remember, there are resources available to you. All you need to do is find them or consult with someone knowledgeable, such as an elder care attorney, who can help point you in the right direction. But, don’t put it off till next year. By that time you may be dealing with a full blown crisis and the options available to you now may not be there later