The holidays are a great time to check in with your loved ones and friends to see how they are doing. I’m talking about your parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends–everyone you care about. Whether you are visiting them or they are visiting you, it’s a good time to make sure everything is going ok.
Does Mom look different? Do you notice changes in clothing style? Does she look disheveled? Did she always have perfect makeup and hair and take time to pick out jewelry? Investigate if you notice changes. Perhaps, due to the isolation and shut down during the pandemic, Mom is just out of the habit of getting dressed like she did before. Or, is it because her hand shakes or she has vision issues and applying makeup has become a challenge? Or, does she have cognitive impairment and making these decisions has become overwhelming?
Are they dirty? Are there spots? Is it a tremor or a shake and food spills on the shirt? Could it be a vision problem like cataracts? Perhaps they just can’t see the spots. Are they not washing their clothes? Has doing the laundry become physically challenging and they may just need a little assistance? Or are they forgetting to change clothes and are showing signs of cognitive impairment?
Do Dad’s clothes not fit anymore? Look for weight gain or loss. Both are concerning. As we age, standing and cooking can become more challenging. Going to the store, planning ahead can become harder. It’s not as enjoyable to cook for one or eat alone. Is Dad gaining weight because he is eating fast food and junk food because it’s easy, or does he have memory issues and forget that he already ate and eats again? He could also be more sedentary and is just not getting enough exercise. Is he losing weight because he’s forgetting to eat or it’s becoming too difficult to cook for himself or is it an underlying medical condition. Medications can also cause weight gain or loss. Depending on what you discover and what is important to your parents, some solutions could be using online grocery delivery, trying a meal service, bringing in a caregiver or even hiring a personal chef.
Are they bathing regularly? Do they have incontinent issues that need to be addressed? Some folks with dementia are afraid of the water and don’t like showers anymore. Or is it a fear of falling? Has bathing become just too difficult and even a bit scary? Or is it just their clothes because they don’t do laundry often enough? Our sense of smell can diminish as we age. Chemotherapy, medications and even allergies can affect our sense of smell. Maybe they don’t know! One solution is to make sure the shower is a safe space with grab bars and a shower chair. Someone with vision impairment or issues with depth perception may be having a hard time seeing the step. Try putting a strip of waterproof tape of a contrasting tile color on the step. Here are some ideas for people with dementia. Don’t ask if they want a shower, just start getting ready for one by laying out their clothes and heating up the room. Use fragrance, and if it’s safe, light a candle. Have them pick out a nice lotion to use after the shower, use soft towels, play music and even dance your way to the shower.
Reference - Apple Care and Companion, reprinted with permission: https://www.applecareandcompanion.com/caregiving/home-for-the-holidays-appearance
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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