Reuniting With Senior Family Members: What to Know and Do
Maintaining social distance from elderly family members during the pandemic was challenging but necessary. Now, as more people are fully vaccinated, we’re reveling in those joyful reunions.
For those whose parents or grandparents live independently, that first visit after months apart can offer valuable insight into a senior’s health and well-being. Typically, adult children notice changes in their parents during holiday visits. But after months of Zoom and Face Time calls, an in-person visit can offer a fresh perspective to recognize any signs of decline.
Here, we offer some important information on what to be aware of, as well as strategies for discussing the need for a higher level of care.
Know what to look for:
Changes in hygiene are usually the first indicator of cognitive decline. Does your previously fastidious parent suddenly appear disheveled? Excessive weight loss, or even weight gain, are also signs that can point to decline, or in some cases, to an illness that should be checked out.
Poor housekeeping—dishes in the sink, trash piling up, increased clutter—these also are indicators that an older adult might be experiencing some decline. Mood changes too are something to be on the lookout for. And if you’re monitoring your loved one’s finances, check to see whether bills are being paid on time.
Know how to react:
Those post-COVID reunions should be joyous, so it’s best to modulate any reactions to help preserve your family member’s dignity. Addressing hygiene or housekeeping issues right off the bat can make a senior feel judged or defensive. Instead, broach these issues more delicately by asking, “If you had a wish list, what type of help would you like to have?” By framing help in a positive way, your loved one will be more forthcoming about challenges and receptive to help. If your family member is resistant, try to revisit the topic again in the near future.
Know not to delay:
Balancing a concern of offending Mom or Dad with a concern for their health is difficult. But, know that delaying action can lead to devastating consequences. Once you’ve broached the subject of supporting your loved one with some type of care, empower them to be a part of the decision-making. Create a plan together, interview caregivers, or even tour facilities in your community so that everyone is comfortable with the plan. Getting a head start by identifying resources is important, as the decision to move a senior to skilled nursing usually happens immediately due to an unforeseen hospitalization.
Know what to look for:
The pandemic made many people wary of seeking out a higher level of care in a skilled nursing facility. Today, the overwhelming majority of seniors and staff at skilled nursing facilities are fully vaccinated, and relaxed restrictions mean seniors can once again enjoy the camaraderie and companionship of living among their peers. Make sure that any facility you’re considering is transparent about its health and safety protocols, and that communication on these issues is frequent. Ask about the facility’s plan for keeping its residents safe. Tour the facility during off hours or at mealtimes to get a sense of the culture. And talk to friends and neighbors for recommendations.
The team at The Nathaniel Witherell is here as a resource for caregivers on making the decision about skilled nursing. Call us at (203) 618-4200 for help and support for all your senior care needs.