The end of November starts the annual holiday season, with families gathering first for Thanksgiving celebration, and again in December for Christmas and Hanukkah and other year-end holidays.
For some families, it is one of the few times during the year they are able to spend with aging parents. If those parents are still living at home alone, the holidays can be a time to not only get together and share a meal and some memories, but also a time to assess whether it’s time for mom and dad to get a little assistance.
Helping aging family members decide when living on their own is no longer a viable – or safe – option always is a touchy situation. But being home for the holidays is the perfect time to make that determination without drawing attention to what you’re doing until a conclusion has been reached.
There are several key factors when determining if it is still possible for aging relatives to live alone. Signs that are able to be observed in person are noticeable weight loss or weight gain, strange body odor and changes in appearance. Weight loss or gain could mean a person is forgetting to eat or drink often enough, or conversely, are forgetting that they’ve already eaten and are eating again. Strange body odor can indicate changes in personal hygiene, which can be the result of depression or just plain inability to properly care for oneself. Other changes in appearance, such as wearing dirty or wrinkly clothing or an unkempt beard or hairstyle, also are good indicators it’s time to seek alternatives.
While in their home, take the opportunity to look in the fridge and the cupboards. Are there many stale or expired foods still on the shelves? Are they buying one product in bulk – more than is reasonably able to be used before it expires? Are any appliances broken that would prevent them from maintaining a healthy diet? Also check the kitchen for signs of fire – burned or scorched pots and pans, potholders with burned edges or a discharged fire extinguisher? If so, it’s time to re-evaluate independent living.
Finally, look at the house itself. Is there a lot of clutter building up? Hoarding can be a sign of a neurological or physical issue. Has the house been kept relatively clean? If old stains are visible due to lack of attention, or a frequently-used area – such as the bathroom – is dirty and grimy.
If any or all of these signs are present, it’s time to have a discussion with your loved one about assisted living options.
Learn more about helping a loved one to choose the right living option for them at an upcoming Upside of Downsizing Conference. Learn more here.
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