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28 Dec, 2011

Tips For Visiting Elderly Parents This Holiday Season

San Rafael, CA (PRWEB) December 25, 2011 — Terri Abelar, CEO and founder of Aging Solutions, Inc. (http://www.agingsolutions.com), a client-centered care management company for the care of elderly and disabled adults has released the Eldercare Reality Check: Look, Listen and Pause just in time for the holidays, when thousands of adult children will be visiting their parents.

Heading home for the holidays to visit their families after a long break can stir up conflicting feelings for adult children. There’s the nostalgia of the old neighborhood, traditions to relive, the touchstones of memory. But when your parents reach a certain age, going home may also bring up sadness, worry, and apprehension: Are they still okay? What will I do if they’re not?

According to a MetLife study published earlier this year, the share of adult children “providing personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has more than tripled over the past 15 years. Currently, a quarter of adult children, mainly baby boomers, provide these types of care to a parent.”

But it’s also true that the physical and/or mental decline of adult parents is a touchy subject. The holidays are rarely the time for taking action for children who see problems with the parents; they’ll likely tell them, perhaps loudly, that it’s none of their business how they’re doing — casting a pall over the holidays for everyone. But concern about how and when adult children’s parents might need their help is still a legitimate one. The best way to begin is to make a quiet, but informed, assessment over the holidays.

Three things to keep in mind: Look, Listen, and Pause.

According to Aging Solutions CEO and Founder Terri Abelar, “The emotional burden of aging parents is spreading wider and getting heavier. Aging Solutions offers these tips Look, Listen and Pause to help adult children assess their loved one’s situation in a general way and then to still take time to enjoy the holidays.”


Look means looking for changes in your parents’ ability to carry out simple daily tasks, such as brushing their teeth, taking out the garbage, or putting away dishes. Do they do these tasks with more difficulty or less regularly? Is old food piling up in the refrigerator? Do they walk across a room freely, or are they touching furniture and walls to navigate? If so, they may be having balance problems. Observe how many medications your parents are taking and whether they are taking them in an organized way and according to directions. Medication mix-ups are an increasingly common cause of sudden changes in aging parents’ conditions, especially in this era of pervasive, nonstop medication marketing. Taking the wrong medication at the wrong time in the wrong dosage can lead to multiple problems that quickly snowball. When clients describe changes in a parent’s behavior, memory, speech patterns, or balance, our first suspect is a medication mix-up. Fortunately, when identified, the problem can be solved in a few days.


Listen means truly listening to your parents as you converse—not interrogating them because you’re worried, or imposing your own expectations. Listen for vague phrases or clichés that signal acceptance or resignation and that are repeated regardless of topic—terms such as “you know, same as ever,” or “can’t complain, I guess.” Do they use these phrases when you ask about a specific activity such as grocery shopping? Can they tell you what a specific medication is for, and who prescribed it? Sometimes people with diminishing mental faculties use this verbal technique, called masking, to hide their increasing confusion. If they are confused, that’s a problem you need to know about—although again, the holidays aren’t the best time to confront it.

To drive or not to drive—that is the most frequently mentioned concern when adult children go home. If it is clear that a parent poses a driving danger you’ll want to deal with that situation without delay—but with a clear understanding that these are among the fiercest of intergenerational family battles. If you don’t want to be the bad guy who takes away the keys—someone is going to have to be—try to find third-party help: their doctor, a family friend, or even the DMV and local police.


Pause means to give yourself a break and don’t panic if what you see at home alarms you. Resist being overwhelmed. Pause and have a serious talk with yourself or your spouse about the importance of being present, in the moment, and enjoying the holiday. Remind yourself that when you get home, you’ll begin to carve out a long-term plan, with your brothers and sisters. If the problems appear to be too many and too complex to handle yourself, consider seeking help from a reputable, experienced geriatric-care manager or consultant, who will bring objectivity and specialized knowledge into the picture.