Going Home for the Holidays

Written by: Audrey Adelson, MSW, WLCP

December 2016

It is not uncommon for family members to live apart from one another today. Often times, the holiday season is the only time family members can gather and spend quality time together. It is also a time when many long-distance caregivers and family members observe changes taking place in their older relatives. Sometimes these changes are more obvious when visits are in person and take place less frequently.

Generally, those of you who are 50 or older and have parents 70 or older, may want to use this holiday time to observe and see if you notice anything obviously different from what you are used to seeing in them. According to experts, memory problems and depression are often the first warning signs you might notice.

Taken from AgingParents.com, here is a list of some warning signs you may want to observe on your visit:

  1. You find late notices from a utility company, cable TV, or other monthly recurring bill in your parents's home.
  2. Your aging parent repeats himself or herself in speaking to you, telling you the same thing or asking the same thing over and over in a single conversation.
  3. Your aging parent shows signs of unusual paranoia, suspicion, or mistrust of something or someone he/she has always trusted. (It could be you!)
  4. You aging parent has a new “friend” who is hanging around a lot, and seems to pressure your parent into doing things he/she would not normally do, including writing checks.
  5. Your parent is not well groomed as she has always been. You see dirty clothing, unkempt hair, or other clues that she has forgotten to take care of herself.
  6. Your parent is suddenly very interested in contests, sweepstakes, and other “get rich quick” offerings and has been giving out personal information and his phone number to enter them.
  7. There is a change in your parent’s giving habits for charitable organizations, which have resulted in large, unusual contributions, out of the norm for your parent.
  8. Your parent is recently widowed, and has never handled the family finances before. She is avoiding the subject of money.
  9. Your aging parent is socially isolated, due to losses, by geography or by choice. There is little activity outside the home and he seems lonely.
  10. Your aging parent has always been proud, stubborn and secretive about money. Even though he’s having trouble keeping track of his bills, he strongly resists asking for your help.

Enjoy holiday visits with family and reach out for help if needed. Emory provides resources to help you as you transition into the role of a caregiver. Some helpful resources include: