It’s finally the holidays - your favorite time of year. Your siblings are coming into town; your children are home from college; you’re ready to enjoy time with the family. But when you finally get everyone together, you start to notice that something seems different about your dad.
Is he moving a little slower? It looks like he might have lost weight. Why is he wearing that mismatched outfit when he’s usually well-dressed?
The holidays are often a key time for noticing changes in your parent’s behavior, physical or mental capabilities or mood. Or, another family member who hasn’t seen your parent in a while may notice a change that you haven’t spotted.
This might be the last thing you want to deal with during the holidays, but think of it as a blessing in disguise. Since everyone’s together in one place, you can form a plan to move forward and make sure everyone is aware of any changes that may be coming.
Signs your parent may need care
How do you know what to look for? If you’ve noticed one or more of these changes in your parent’s activities of daily living (ADLs), it might be time to discuss care options.
Problems with hygiene and getting dressed.
Changes in weight - especially losing weight
Lack of social interaction or staying at home more often.
Trouble driving or navigating in familiar places, if they still drive.
Inability to keep up with cleaning the house, doing chores, etc.
If your parent has recently suffered an illness or incident, like a stroke or fall, that’s another sign that they may need a long term plan for care.
Discussing your parent’s care with family members
Unless you’re an only child, chances are you’ll need to discuss your observations with family members and develop a plan for your parent’s care. While this may not be the easiest conversation, it’s important to keep a level head and make sure your parent’s care is top of mind.
In a Forbes.com article, Carolyn Rosenblatt advises family members to keep the peace by sticking to a few basic rules during this discussion.
Do decide what you’re going to talk about during the discussion - and stay on topic.
Don’t bring up fights or disagreements that happened in the past.
Do listen without interrupting.
Don’t shut down; stay engaged, and listen and answer respectfully.
You may want to decide what the goal of your discussion is. If this is the first time anyone has mentioned anything, it might be helpful to simply get on the same page. If it’s been a topic of discussion before, you may need to pin down a concrete outcome, like deciding that someone will research assisted living communities near you.
Types of senior care available
If you establish that your parent is struggling to meet the activities of daily living, you’ll need to decide what kind of care is best for them. You have a few options, including:
You, your family members or a professional care provider will support your parent in their current home or your home. This often seems like the easiest option up-front, but you’ll want to consider how suitable the home is for a senior. You should also think about the time and energy you’ll need to spend taking care of your parent. If they have a more advanced illness or other special needs, it might be best to consider getting help from a professional.
Assisted living is for people who need a little help with the activities of daily living. Housing options may be apartments or shared suites, and residents can feel secure knowing that someone is there to help them when they need it.
Long term care
If your parent needs 24/7 medical care, long term care - also called skilled nursing - will be the right option for them. Residents will have assistance with eating, bathing, getting dressed, getting around and more. They will also get help with medication management and any special care they may need.
Your top priority is finding the best care for your parent
No matter which option you choose, there are multiple angles to consider and questions to ask. And remember: There’s no reason to feel guilty for moving your parent to an assisted living or long term care location. If your top priority is getting the best possible care for them, you’re doing the right thing.
Learn more about the benefits of assisted living at Maine Veterans’ Homes.