Archive for November, 2016

Spending The Holidays With Parents

November 8, 2016

Planning to spend some time with your parents during the holidays?  It will be good to see them again.  While enjoying their company, and the good food and drink, there is something else you can do to make their lives better.

Check them out!  Now don’t make a big deal about it. Just observe…then ask questions…when appropriate to do so.  Are they moving more slowly?  What about balance?…any indications of recent falls, like bruises on knees & hands?  Do you see any tripping hazards, like a loose rug on top of a hardwood floor?  Extension cords across the floor?

Is the medicine cabinet overflowing with prescriptions (it is OK to peek)?  Anything new since last time?  What about really old or expired medications?  You can have a conversation about health issues.  After all, they are your parents.

How is the inside of their home?  Is it as clean & well cared for as you remember it?  I am not talking about relatively minor things like water glasses having a few spots or dust in difficult to reach places.  Are things being repaired as needed

Look inside their refrigerator.  Is there enough food?  Does the inside of the refrigerator smell OK?  Is anything really old or moldy?

How is their memory?  As people get older, they tend to tell the same stories over and over.  That is OK.  What is not OK is not knowing what day it is, where they live, or who you are.

What about personal hygiene?  Has Dad stopped shaving completely?  (“Nice overflowing beard, Dad.”)  Was Mom always well-dressed and now she is not?  Are they wearing clothing that has not been washed for a while?

If they are still driving, how are they doing with that?  Any scrapes on the side of the car?  Damage to left or right side view mirrors?  What about wall scrapes on the entrance to the garage?  Phone calls from nearby relatives or friends about their driving ability?

You should know that convincing parents to give up driving is one of the most difficult challenges you could face.  It is often seen as an attempt, by well-meaning you, to limit Mom & Dad’s personal freedom.  If any of my dear readers have “taken the car keys away” and are willing to have their experience published in a future eNewsletter, please email me with your story to  Be sure to include your permission to publish.

As an adult child, you have a fine line to walk.  You have an obligation to do everything you can to keep your parents safe.  Yet you must also respect your parents’ autonomy…their right to live as they wish.  After all, they are adults in America.  No one ever said that watching your parents grow old would be easy.   And parents will always see themselves as the adults…and you as the child.

Whew!  This is heavier than it started out to be.  Why did I write this article?  Two reasons: 1) Because I had a self-imposed deadline for the November e-Newsletter.  2) More important: When considerable time passes between visits, changes in behavior are more obvious.  The holidays are a great time to see how things are going.

On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to see your parents often, you can (and should) still “check them out”.  You just have to work harder to do it…any changes will not be as obvious, but you can still see them if you look carefully enough.

Bottom line: Is it time for you to suggest having someone come in once in a while to help them (home care agency)?  Or perhaps moving (That is almost as big as taking the car keys away!) to a more supportive community, like an assisted living facility?  I do not have the answer, but that is indeed the question.


© Raymond Smith, The Long Term Care Specialist, 2016