For many, the holidays mean a time of traveling to visit with loved ones. It is a chance to catch up, spread some cheer and enjoy each other’s company. So much can change over your time apart and sometimes those changes are having a significant impact on your loved one’s quality of life. If you do notice such changes during your visit, what can you do? How do you bring up the subject while maintaining the peace? You will need to know what to do if you notice such changes.
If your loved one lives on her own, the first (and best) thing you can do after you arrive, is to give her a big hug! Not only will it feel great for both of you, but you can learn so much. Feel the level of her strength –is it stronger or weaker than expected. Has she lost weight? Use your nose –is personal hygiene compromised? A simple hug can uncover so much information quickly without anyone feeling like you’re imposing.
During your visit, have a look in the fridge. Is there a variety of food that’s still in good condition and not expired? Look around, are there any differences from her normal standards? Is the mail piling up? Are items put away in unusual areas of the house or is everything where it should be?
If you notice some changes or something unusual, this is reminder to continue to remain calm and simply put your detective hat on to investigate a little further. Avoid the twenty-question interrogation. You want to start by having a casual and relaxed conversation to simply gather more information while being her confidante. From her point of view, you may find out what the difficulty really is. You can then research solutions or services available and arrange for added support so she will feel more empowered in her home and less stressed trying to manage it all.
If your loved one lives in a Care Facility, when you first arrive is a great opportunity to talk with the staff. How is she doing day to day? Is she participating in the activities and spending time out of her room? How is her sleeping and eating overall? Has she made friends with other residents? When you arrive to her room, how does it look? If your mom has always preferred a neat and orderly environment and you see piles on every surface, something could be worth investigating.
Using the communication cues mentioned above, you may uncover the hidden source of stress that is compounded by the clutter and you can advocate a solution or work around. If she tends to stay in her room a lot, a relaxed conversation may reveal she feels overwhelmed during group activities. Perhaps having the option of one on one activities and outings would be better suited.
Coming together during the holidays can be a very important time for you and your loved one. It’s a wonderful opportunity to reconnect and to learn so much about each other, which can mean so much more than you may already know.
Happy and safe travels this holiday season!