The holidays are meant to be a time for joy and fun, but for adult children who travel to visit their elderly parents, the holidays also are a practical time to check on mom and dad’s health and perhaps schedule much needed doctor appointments, according to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine’s Huffington Center on Aging.
“Over the holiday season, expectations for a great family time are always high; they also give adult children opportunities to pay close attention to the health of elderly loved ones,” said Dr. Robert Roush, professor of medicine-geriatrics at Baylor. “For siblings who might only see each other over the holidays, it’s important to get together and decide whether mom and dad are getting the care they need.”
Roush stresses the importance of yearly checkups for elder adults and said scheduling appointments during holiday visits is a great way to ensure they are getting the necessary care.
“If an elder adult is able to know where and when they need to go and they have the capacity to get there, then they are probably okay to manage their own appointments. If mom and dad, though, are having trouble standing up out of a chair and walking more slowly than the last time you saw them, then they might need the extra help in getting to the right appointments,” he said.
It’s a good idea to plan ahead and make a checklist of all the things you believe your parents may need when you visit them during the holidays.
“Knowing that you will be in town visiting mom and dad over the holidays, you need to plan in advance and ask your parents if it is time for their checkup and suggest making the call to schedule their appointment. Planning ahead and following up with the appointments is the best way to know that they are being well taken care of, even if you are not there all year round,” said Roush.
Another good way adult children can ensure their parents are receiving the proper care is to talk to them about their medication. “Almost everyone has a mobile phone with a camera nowadays. Take a picture of their medication bottles so you’ll always have a record on hand of what they’re taking. You can also check to see if they are running low and ask the pharmacy to refill the prescription before leaving town,” Roush said.
Of course, you should not do any of these things without their permission. All persons should be treated with respect, regardless of age or mental state, he said.
- Do mom or dad look just as well as they did the last time you saw them?
- Are they still well dressed and groomed?
- Do you notice any sense of self-neglect?
- Is the house clean?
- Are there food products in the fridge past their due date?
- Are there any bills piling up in the house? What about lottery notices?
- Is there any clutter, extension cords stretched over walkways, throw rugs on hardwood floors that can cause one to trip and fall?
- Does the bathroom have a nightlight?
“Answers to these questions can help adult children in determining how safe of an environment in which their parents or grandparents are living,’
It’s the holidays, so look forward to going home and having fun, baking cookies, reminiscing and sharing presents with one another, but have your antenna out a little bit and be observant, Roush recommended. “Above all, be respectful, as someday it’ll be your turn to be the elder.”