Hanukkah 5775 is in full swing as we celebrate with our families and our community. If you are like me, you wonder where the year has gone and you are convinced that time is actually moving faster.
As we cycle through the years at what seems like warp speed, the moment arrives when adult children are squarely, and often surprisingly, thrust into the role as a caregiver for their aging loved ones. There is a great epiphany that happens during the holidays. It is that oy-vey moment, when adult children recognize that the tides have shifted and generational role reversal is in order.
It is not surprising that this recognition of need takes place during the holiday season when family togetherness increases exponentially. This is a time when you may begin to see differences in your loved ones, friends or neighbors that could indicate the need for assistance. Are they showing any signs?
Use the following list to guide you in your assessment as you look for precipitous changes in addition to steady decline over time:
• Changes in hygiene: poor grooming, infrequent bathing
• Basic tasks: difficulty with eating, dressing, managing medications, cooking
• Isolation: not maintaining outside friendships or interests
• Erratic behavior: paranoid, refusing to communicate, extremely argumentative
• Dementia: consistent memory lapses, confusion, loss of reasoning skills, difficulty answering questions, getting lost walking or driving
• Health issues: increased bruising, challenges with mobility and balance, bedwetting (urinary incontinence), dehydration (complaints of being thirsty) and weight loss.
Objectivity is key; if you are fortunate to live in the same city as your aging loved ones, your proximity to the situation could make these assessments more challenging. Simply asking, “How does Mom seem to you?” to out-of-town relatives can be insightful. There is so often a reluctance to admit that our loved one’s health is in decline. Acknowledging this pivotal time is challenging and often fraught with anxiety for families.
While holiday festivities are the impetus to the recognition of need, the natural tendency is to move on with the celebration and put the issues on hold. I urge you to take off your “Hanukkah goggles” and view the situation through a realistic lens.
Planning for care can prevent dangerous situations such as a fall and medical interventions in the case of a stroke, or heart attack. It can be so tragic that most of the time care plans are often considered after something catastrophic has occurred. If only we could have planned ahead and realized the unrecognized needs of the aging adults in our lives.
While it can be difficult to accept these changes in your loved one, there are options to assist them in the future. Hiring an employer-based agency can provide the support to ensure that loved ones remain safe and live independently. Services include companionship, transportation to appointments, shopping and errands, meal planning and preparation, personal care, light housekeeping and medication reminders.
Caring for our aging loved ones is an honor, and addressing the needs of the aging community takes dedication, the literal meaning of the Hebrew word Hanukkah.
Bob Roth is managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions, LLC. For more information, visit cypresshomecare.com.