As the holidays approach I am reminded of the many calls we get from families in the early part of January after they visit with their loved ones. Often, holidays are the time when families notice that an elder loved one is not doing as well as they hoped, is perhpas having difficulty with simple tasks, or has declined since a previous visit. Especially in families where caregivers/children/loved ones live far away, what one anticipates as a pleasant visit after many months or longer, can turn into one fraught with concern and worry.
If you are faced with this situation, or anticipate that you may find yourself scrambling to figure out care and/or supports for an elder loved one over the hoidays, it's important to begin a conversation with the person about your concerns sooner rather than later. It's never easy. And there is no perfect time. Ideally, a conversation about planning ahead should happen well in advance of a crisis - especially if all family live out of town. However, realistically, such a conversation may not occur until something happens to instigate it. In this situation, the priority is ensuring safety while you organize next steps.
Keep in mind, when talking to your loved one, that this can be a very frightening experience and you need to be supportive and listen. Consider their requests and understand that as long as they are mentally competent, they have the right to decide what they want to do. If there are other family members, ensure they are part of the conversation. Prior to sitting down with your loved one, you may want to investigate some care options in their area so you have some solutions to offer. Try not to overwhlem and stay focused on the senior and what they need, not what the family wants. Be open and honest and try to problem solve together. Teamwork can help and no one person should be expected to take on all of the responsibility alone especially if there are other family members. Do what you can to keep the person at home for as long as possible, with adequate support, as long as they can be safe in their own envirionment.
For those of you that consider your role to be a long distance caregiver, it's important to create a group of helpers who can keep an eye on your loved one through regular physical contact. It's much easier to hide concerns or issues on the phone than in person so, someone who visits often is an important component of keeping your loved one safe. When you are in the home, make sure you check it for safety issues and familiarize yourself with finaincial and medical information. Do what you can to organize paperwork, caregivers and any necessary documents. Consider creating an emergency file or download one from https://www.senioropolis.com/BookInfo.asp or https://www.seniorcareaccess.com/publications.php. As well, once you are home, you may want to consider technology based tools to assist you in monitoring your loved one from a distance. For more information on caregiving, care options, and/or having a difficult conversation about care needs with a loved one, download a free copy of our Guide at www.senioropolis.com.