Thanksgiving — and other major holidays when you are surrounded by extended family– is a great time to take an assessment of the elders in your life, After you’ve gotten in your hugs and settled in for the weekend, take a look around. Is the house in good order? Is there anything off about the food. Sure, grandma’s famous cornpones may not be as light as they once were, but are they really off the mark from what you remember?
If seniors are coming to you, take note of their conversation. Can they remember the answer to the question you just gave them? Are they struggling with your spouse’s or children’s names? Do they seem unsteady on their feet?
If you live in another city or state and don’t get to see your parents or great aunts that often, you might be tempted to overlook the layers of dust on the furniture or salt, instead of sugar, in the sweet tea or things that are out of sorts. Who wants to bring up unpleasantries at this time of year? But because you’ve been away, you might be the best person to judge changes that a sibling or other close-by relatives may have missed or making excuses for? Sure, a man in his eighties is bound to mix up one of the grandkids’ name, but shouldn’t ask your son every five minutes how old he is. It’s not a senior moment, it could be signs of dementia.
After the turkey is eaten and the dishes put away, take time out to have a deep conversation with her or him to find out how they are really doing? Do they get out as often? Are they having problems in the neighborhood? Do they need help of any kind? Deeply listen to what they tell you. If they complain about missing items at home or the bank pestering them about something, it might be that they are losing items at home or are having problems remembering to pay their bills.
While all the siblings and cousins, aunts and in-laws are together, talk to them about your concerns and formulate a next step. It could be:
- Someone going to a doctor’s appointment with the elder to let the family physician know what’s up
- Getting an evaluation by a neurologist or memory specialist
- Looking into senior services in the area that can help with house cleaning and running errands
- Thinking about whether it’s time for the senior to move in with another family member or for someone in the family to move in with her or him
Above all, don’t panic. Treat the person with the same respect you always have. Dementia is a disease with symptoms. There also is a world wide community of people whose loved ones are going through the same thing and can provide comfort, direction and answers.