Taking Care of Your Loved Ones at Thanksgiving – By Karen Nolan, Esq.


This season of Thanksgiving: what to look for during your visit with Mom and Dad

Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy family.  However, it is also an opportunity to gauge how aging parents are doing. Telephone conversations sometimes do not reveal if they are taking care of themselves and staying healthy.  When visiting aging parents during this holiday season, consider these questions:

 Are your parents safe in their home?

Assess how your parents are getting around their home.  Are they having difficulty bathing or using the restroom?  Are there clear pathways through the home?  Have they fallen recently? 

Do you notice scorched pans in the kitchen?  Scorched pans could mean your parents are forgetting about food cooking on the stove—a sign of memory loss.

Is paperwork piling up?

If household bills are piling up and mail is left unopened, it could be a sign that the simple tasks of writing checks, balancing a checkbook, and keeping track of due dates are becoming overwhelming.

Is the refrigerator and pantry stocked with food?  

Do you notice moldy or expired food items in the fridge?  Are they losing weight?  This could mean they are having difficulty remembering how to cook or concerns with spending money on food.  It could also mean they have an underlying health issue causing a disinterest in food or causing weight loss.

What medications are they taking?

Assess how many medications your parents are taking and determine how they are keeping track of them.  Are there expired pills in their medicine cabinet?  Are they taking their medications daily? 

 Taking action

 Sometimes parents won’t admit they need help, and others do not realize they need help.  You can assist your parents in identifying any issues and start taking action to remedy the situation.  Here are some things you can do to help your parents stay healthy and safe:

  1. Help them organize their medications

Assist your parents with tracking their medications.  Purchase a pill-tracking container to help them manage when to take their medications.  There are many options on the market today including smart pillboxes that will not release the pills from the container until a designated time.  This can assist parents who are beginning to have memory loss.

Color code pill bottles and make a list of the medications so parents can understand what they are taking.  Make a copy for yourself and keep it with you.  It is also a good idea to maintain a contact list of their doctors.

  1. Discuss geriatric management

If your parents are having difficulty with the daily tasks such as bathing and toileting, they may need caregiver services.  A discussion with their doctor may be needed to help you determine what level of care is needed.   

  1. Discuss legal issues

If your parents are declining but still have capacity, now is the time to discuss legal documents such as advance medical directives and durable power of attorney. A consultation with an elder law attorney can assist with legal matters such as preparing or updating estate planning documents, long term care planning, and Medicaid.