Home for the holidays: tips for talking to aging parents about changing health and wellness needs

By Colleen Van Horn, RN, B.S.N., PHN, CCM

The holiday season is a prime opportunity for families to gather together and reconnect. But while many seasonal gatherings are joyous occasions, individuals with aging parents may also encounter certain changes in their loved ones’ health and behavior to cause concern. Such circumstances can be troubling, and pose a difficult situation for children of aging parents as they struggle to determine the best course of action. By combining the following suggestions with custom counsel from a professional

geriatric care manager

, individuals can broach the topic of their loved ones’ changing health and lifestyle needs with both confidence and compassion.

Warning signs: what to look for when visiting home

Upon returning home for the holidays, children may notice differences in their parents’ behavior. The following changes can be red flags pointing to possible health conditions or concerns:

  • Alterations in weight or dietary habits
  • Changes in short term memory
  • Changes in habitual routine, speech and/or ambulation
  • Neglect of bills, housekeeping duties, close friends, favorite activities or personal care
  • Mood swings or increased irritability
  • Refusal to listen to suggestions or discuss any of the above behaviors

If you or your siblings notice any combination of these or other unusual habits in your aging family members, avoid confronting them in an agitated or angry manner. Unless you suspect a medical emergency (in which case you should seek immediate medical attention), try instead to broach the subject calmly and with a clear focus on your loved one’s best interests. Explain your concern in the form of an “I” message, such as “I noticed that you seem to be losing weight. Are you concerned about your diet? I am.” Make it clear to your parent that their autonomy and comfort are your primary goals in raising the subject, and encourage an honest conversation about their health, mood, social life and capacity for self-care.
Be prepared: plan for your holiday visit with help from a geriatric care manager

Talking to family members about a parent’s deteriorating health can be challenging at best; and despite our efforts, it can be very hard to initiate such conversations with those we love. If you or your siblings suspect the need for a revised healthcare or lifestyle regimen for one or both of your parents, consider scheduling a consultation with a San Diego geriatric care specialist prior to your visit home.

Professional Geriatric Care Managers

, or PGCMs, are qualified to evaluate aging individuals’ circumstances and healthcare needs, and to recommend changes in living conditions – from minor changes in an individual’s routine to partial in-home care to assisted living – that will help make your elderly loved ones healthier, safer, more comfortable and more independent. To learn more or schedule a consultation, contact our skilled team at Innovative Healthcare Consultants today: