Not living close to your aging parents can cause stress in determining their level of safety at home. You may be wondering if they should still be driving, are safe in the shower, or if they are exhibiting signs of dementia. Going home for the holidays is an opportunity to observe your aging family members to determine if their physical and cognitive skills are still at a level that allows them to be as independent as they are. Below are a few tips to help gauge their level of safety.
Do you notice any scrapes or bruises they failed to mention or that don't match the story they told you over the phone? This could be a sign that they are falling more often than they'd like to admit. Also check for any dry blood stains on carpet or doorways they may have failed to clean up properly. Is there spoiled food in the refrigerator? They may not be paying as much attention to their nutrition as they once did. Are all of the pills in their pill box filled and/or empty where they should be? How much clean underwear is in the drawer versus in the hamper? Are they changing and washing their clothes often enough? If not, they could either be forgetting to do so or be reluctant to use the washing machine that may be in the basement. Are there cobwebs on the walker they are supposed to be using everyday?
Take a look at your parent's car. Does it have scratches and dings it didn't used to? Ask them to take you for a drive to the grocery store and see how they do. Are they making turns as tight as they should? Are they able to turn their neck to see pedestrians and to merge? What was their reaction time like? What about once you're in the grocery store, are they navigating the aisles in a way that makes sense?
All of these observations can help you determine if it is time to talk to your parents about getting a little help around the house. It is important not to be obvious or judgemental in any of these situations, but rather to gather the information and think of a calm, non-threatening way to approach them after the holidays. It is vital not to take their independence away, but rather to keep them strong enough to do the things they love while not worrying so much about things that cause them harm.
Most importantly, don't let your whole trip be bogged down with worry, enjoy your time with family and friends making great memories.