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Aging parents

Family gatherings are a good time for adult children to evaluate how their parents are aging — especially those who don't see one another as frequently. 

Mary Swip, director of sales and marketing at Stonecrest at Clayton View, shares some tips on how to check on the well-being of aging parents when you're home for the holidays.

It's a time to note any changes in their behavior or physical and mental capabilities, she said.  "If you have siblings who are also visiting, it's a good idea to discuss the changes you notice with them while you’re together, face-to-face," Swip added.

It's important to distinguish minor problems, such as mom getting stressed simply because everyone's visiting, versus something significant, which could be she's much thinner than the last time you visited.

Signs that your parents may need more help include:

  • Physical changes

A significant weight loss or significant weight gain can be a warning sign. In addition, look for changes in personal hygiene. For example, if your typically well dressed mother doesn't care as much about her appearance, something could be amiss.

  • Mobility

How is your parent’s balance, energy or ability to get in or out of a chair?

  • Mood

Is your parent's mood different than it used to be? This can be hard to determine over a brief phone call, so be alert when together. Is your mom or dad more confused or agitated or having mood swings? Is there a loss of interest in things they've always enjoyed?

  • Housework

Is the house in order? If your parents have always been messy, this can be hard to notice. Take note of unopened mail, unpaid bills or a disarray that is not typical of past behavior. Is there rotting food in the refrigerator or too many items of the same thing? Are the medications expired? Is the physical house itself falling into disrepair around them?

  • Memory

Everyone forgets, but is it heightened? Is there more confusion than you recall? Is your loved one forgetting names of common items more than normal?

  • Driving

Get in the car with your parents and let them drive. How are their skills? Are there more dents than there should be on the car?

After you've assessed the situation, talk to your siblings. Did they notice something you didn't? Are they making excuses for the changes? Determine there is reason to be concerned. You don't have to necessarily address everything with your parents right away, but you don't want to wait too long.

"As children, you don't want to put blinders on," Swip said. "If you notice signs of aging and are concerned, talk with your parent's doctor to see what they say."