Home for the Holidays? What to Do When You Notice Changes in Your Senior Loved One

While the holidays are a season of visiting family and spending time with loved ones, sometimes doing those things can illuminate signs of aging in older parents or other family members. Maybe you notice Mom is having trouble making her world-famous sweet potato casserole, or Grandpa gets lost driving back from the grocery store he’s been going to his whole life.


Oftentimes, especially if a child lives far away and doesn’t see a parent regularly, changes in the parent’s mood, behavior or physical ability can be more noticeable than if the child saw the parent every day and didn’t recognize slight changes over long periods of time. Has your once-social father become withdrawn? Is your typically organized grandmother letting mail and bills pile up? Is your cheerful aunt now acting uncharacteristically irritated?


The first step is recognizing these changes, but keep in mind that your loved one may be trying to hide them. Even if all seems well at your parents’ house, it doesn’t hurt to ask a few questions. Have they been keeping up with housework and bills? Have they been going to their doctors’ appointments and normal social events? Have they been taking their medication?


The next step is to determine what is causing the change and it’s important that your loved one see a doctor who can help determine if there are underlying causes. Some of the changes could be a result of normal physical aging. Maybe your mom seems more disoriented than normal because she is having a hard time hearing, and really just needs an hearing aid. Maybe Dad isn’t keeping his yard as pristine as normal because it’s harder for him to get down on his hands and knees and pull weeds, and someone could be hired to help take the burden off him.


But maybe the changes are caused by cognitive decline which, though large enough to notice, may not disrupt the activities of daily living. It’s when cognitive decline begins to affect the activities of daily living—a possible sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia—that your senior loved one should be assessed by a physician.


When the safety and care of your senior loved one begin to arise, it's important to research all your options.  For more ideas, visit our blog on how talk to a loved one and family members on considering a move to senior living or contact our Senior Living Specialist at 518-393-8800.