It is the holiday season; a time for laughter, for visiting, for reminiscing. If you haven’t seen Mom and
Dad for a while, it is also a time for observing.
You might intend to fly in on a whirlwind trip, plan all kinds of activities with them, take them out to a show or to dinner, fill their world with hustle and bustle, maybe even invite everyone over to their house.
It all sounds wonderful and can be. It can also feel like you are a tidal wave that is crashing down on them.
Remember the old rhyme: “Stop, look, listen”. As they get older, their world may be changing. This is your opportunity to really tune-in with them and make sure they are doing alright.
Stop. Pause, breathe. Be present. Ask them what they would like to do when you are there. If they are zippy and ready to do all the things you want, wonderful. If they just want to stay home, that is wonderful too. Action can cause stress and anxiety. As their world has slowed down, just sitting around and sharing stories about the past may be the biggest gift you can give them. Yes, they might love doing all the things that you are proposing but stop and ask before making all those plans.
Look. Observe. This is your chance to see what is going on in their world. Has there been a change? Look around to see if things are normal. Perhaps there bills piling up or there layers of dust and debris. Is it typical or is this a new thing for them? Remember, we are looking to see if things are normal.
Look at their prescription bottles, the ones that they are supposed to be taking every day. See if they up to date.
Are they taking care of their personal hygiene? Was Dad normally careful with his appearance, but now looks disheveled? Again, look for change. If he always had a scruffy beard, this isn’t a change.
Listen. Talk to them. I didn’t say interrogate them. Hear them. Are they telling you about challenges they are having? Are any hints that things are different? Do they share stories about current activities they are doing? Are they in the present?
Perhaps your in-town siblings have been telling you about changes they have seen. Don’t ignore them. Ask questions. Ask what you can do to help.
If everything is normal, enjoy all the activities that you plan together.
If you notice a change and it concerns you, it may be time to take further steps. If there are primary caregivers who have been helping them, discuss how you can help. They know the everyday ins and outs of your parents’ world. Listen to them.
You can hire in-home care or cleaning services. If you are really concerned about their safety, insist on scheduling an appointment with their doctor and go with them.
We want to keep our parents safe.
Don’t just overrun them with your presence: stop, look, listen.
Jean Long Manteufel writes a column on the first Sunday of each month about life changes associated
with aging. Send your questions to Jean@TransitionsWithJean.com or call 920-734-3260.