It’s the holiday season again and you haven’t seen your parents face-to-face since this time last year– has it been that long already? You are looking forward to a visit with your whole family: your mom, dad, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins and everyone else in between. Although you’ve kept in touch over the phone, you worry about your parents since it’s hard to tell if everything is going smoothly for them.
When you arrive at your parents’ home, you greet your loved ones and start spending some time with them– something you don’t always get. Mom has offered to prepare the usual holiday feast that she has made for years and the whole family looks forward to eating; but on the morning of the day it is to be cooked, it completely slipped Mom’s mind that she was supposed to make anything at all. How does this happen? What else may be slipping her mind?
This is an example of one of many indicators that a family member may be in need of assistance, whether it be someone to help with grocery shopping, attend medical appointments, or help pay bills on time. To help determine if a loved one may need additional help, here are a few examples to watch for:
The person who managed the household for years– from weekly grocery shopping to keeping track of all the doctor appointments– has missed said appointments or can no longer keep up with the grocery shopping. Sometimes he or she has lost the ability to manage his/her daily schedule, forgetting where the time has gone and possibly missing a few important dates to pay bills. If there are multiple unpaid bills or invoices erroneously paid twice for the same billing cycle, it may be time to develop a daily money management plan to ensure your loved one’s forgetfulness is not getting taken advantage of. Naturally, we want to excuse forgetfulness as an infrequent occurrence; however, it may transition into long-term forgetfulness and potentially permanent memory loss. The best approach is to offer a plan that will help your loved one still feel independent by providing extra help to keep accounts up-to-date, assist in household management such as repairs and grocery shopping, and offer healthcare assistance to attend necessary doctor appointments.
Humans are creatures of habit by nature, often frequenting the same restaurants for dining or places of business for service where they can recall their favorite dish or know their auto mechanic by name. When memory starts to fade, we may notice our loved ones calling someone by the wrong name or completely forgetting names altogether. This may seem innocent in social standards, yet it could be an indicator that such memory loss extends to forgetting more important things such as taking essential medications or remembering the route home from an outing. This type of memory loss is no longer the usual forgetfulness and should be addressed by deciding what level of care your loved one needs, whether it be a caregiver who visits a few times a week to a permanent, live-in caregiver who can be by your loved one’s side at all times. Whatever the case may be, there are always options to provide the best care for each unique client.
Change in Health
As a person ages, personal care such as appearance, hygiene and medical attention is not deemed a priority, especially if appointments or errands don’t call them out of the house on a daily basis. When a loved one has developed a sloppy appearance or delays getting medical attention for medical conditions, the need for help is critical. Sluggishness and change in demeanor are also signs that someone needs assistance. In addition, if your loved one does not already have an Advance Healthcare Directive, now would be the time to establish one and discuss exactly what your loved ones’ wishes are. There are ways to designate your wishes from routine medical care to emergency medical attention to end-of-life decisions. These may seem like grim decisions to make, but once they are established, they will provide an easy plan for healthcare professionals and loved ones to follow whenever they time may come.
How to Help
Now that you’ve helped Mom make her signature holiday meal and finished dinner with the family, everyone disperses to relax and digest their meals, which gives you time to talk to Mom alone over a cup of coffee. You ask her how she’s doing, how she’s feeling and what you can do to help make daily life easier for her. In asking these simple questions, you opened up the line of communication to let her know that you care about her well-being and that you want what is best for her. She admits that she’s embarassed for being forgetful lately and could use some help, but doesn’t know where to get it. Since you live far away, you assure her that you’ll look for a professional service with a personal touch that will maintain her sense of independence and remove the stress from her routine.
The need for help is not always apparent and some people may not know how to ask for it. The best way to find out is to look for the signs described above and to ask our loved one if there is anything we can do to simplify their lives and alleviate their burdens. In such cases where time and location inhibit a relative from working with their loved one directly, a licensed, private professional fiduciary can be used in a multitude of capacities to achieve each unique client’s needs to feel at ease and improve their quality of life.