Happy Holidays!

Have you seen that buzzy holiday ad from Chevrolet? It manages to teach without preaching, tug at the heartstrings without being sentimental, and make a statement without using any images of new cars. Very impressive marketing. It also serves as a great reminder that the holidays are a time of family gatherings, and that it’s a natural time to think about the future for our older loved ones.

Not every family will be facing the challenges of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, but most families will need to confront the reality of aging loved ones who can no longer live alone. Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve aren’t the ideal time to discuss major life decisions. But it can be a great opportunity to assess how your parents or older adults are managing. Here are six things to look for or observe to help you start the conversation when it’s time.

  1. How does the house and yard look? Is your loved one keeping up with household chores, necessary maintenance and home needs? Are there trip hazards with loose throw rugs, unshoveled sidewalks or other potential concerns? 
  2. Is the pantry and refrigerator stocked? Is there evidence they’re eating nutritious meals or relying on staples like frozen meals and canned goods? 
  3. Do they have an active social life? Do they meet with friends regularly? Attend social engagements or religious services? Are they in touch with family members? Are they lonely?
  4. Have there been any recent changes in their health or medications? Are they managing their prescriptions? Do they keep their medical appointments? Have they named someone as their healthcare advocate and do they have access to their medical history?
  5. Are their finances in order? Are they keeping up with their bills and taxes? Are they financially secure?
  6. How do they see their future? Are they looking ahead and making plans? Are they setting goals and accomplishing them? Have they considered their future needs or have you? Do you know what available services for if and when they need in-home help can be found nearby? Or will they have to move away from the familiar in order to get the care they need?

The solution for your family won’t be as simple as the one seen in the Chevy ad. A single car ride to a John Denver song probably isn’t the answer your loved one needs, but there are smart, caring solutions available. It all begins with a loving conversation at the right time. 

This holiday, I’ll be holding my loved ones a little closer as we celebrate. And, I’ll give myself and others an extra measure of grace when difficult moments arise, as I know they will. In that moment, before I speak too quickly or walk away, I’ll pause and hear the soft refrain of sunshine on my shoulders and remember a special moment in time. 

Wishing you happy memories and holidays!