The holidays are over. Adult children have returned home. Grandchildren are back in school. Holiday decorations have been packed away for another year.
For some families, this New Year will bring discussions about difficult topics, including aging.
In one family, a son has new doubts about his mother's ability to handle finances. In another, a daughter noticed her father wore the same shirt and sweater each day she was visiting.
Earlier that day, in the same family, the daughter had noticed several scrapes and dings on her dad's car.
It's a post-holiday visit reality for many who are concerned about aging parents.
If you are concerned about whether aging parents need professional home care or other outside support in order to stay home and maintain their independence, here is a list of indicators to help quickly assess a loved one's condition and potential areas of concern.
Likewise, if you are older, the list might trigger signs to seek help on your own.
These indicators come from a list compiled by Charles Puchta, a certified senior adviser and founder of Care Ministry. Consider:
Medical condition: A recently diagnosed injury, illness or disease could affect daily ability to function. How is your parent coping with the condition? What services and supports are in place?
Driving: Impaired vision, hearing and-or reflexes increase risks for driving difficulties. Has your parent been involved in recent accidents or become lost while driving?
Food and nutrition: Take note of your loved one's diet to ensure she is eating well-balanced meals and maintaining a steady weight. Is refrigerated food within expiration dates?
Hygiene: Note your loved one's overall appearance and odor and if he wears suitable clothing for various occasions and weather conditions. Are bed linens, bath towels and clothing clean?
Behavior: Is your parent anxious, irritable or depressed? Does he or she have difficulty remembering names, places and current events?
Daily tasks: Are basic tasks, such as grocery shopping and meal preparation, becoming overly challenging?
Medication: Is your parent able to properly manage medications, including dosage, frequency and changes to prescriptions? Are prescriptions being filled on time?
Finances: Is your loved one able to manage personal finances, pay bills and balance the checkbook? Do you see past-due notices?
Safety: Does your loved one remember to turn off appliances? What about cooking without mishaps or keeping doors and windows locked? Or is she losing balance and falling?
It might be time to step in more actively into your parent's daily life if even one of these issues is happening. Share your concerns respectfully. If you can bring in outside professional help, start with non-threatening things, such as grocery shopping, which can lead to adding more tasks as comfort levels grow.
Remember, you can seek advice from trusted professionals, community support groups or other families who have faced similar issues.
Debbie Morris, MA, EDs, is CEO of Home Helpers Home Care and Home Health and certified by the National Academy of Certified Care Managers. firstname.lastname@example.org; www.inhomecarelowcountry.com