Hello everyone and welcome to the first ever Caregiver’s Toolbox podcast.  Today we are talking about assessing a parent during holiday and family gatherings.   Please follow our podcast on Stitcher, iTunes, or Google Play!  Let’s get into the very first episode on assessing a parent. 

 

Assessing a Parent During Family Gatherings Podcast

Ryan McEniff:
Hello everybody and welcome to the Caregiver’s Toolbox, tools for everyday caregiving. Today is episode number one and what we’re going to be talking about is assessing parents during the holidays. My name is Ryan McEniff and I’m here with [Janet 00:00:17]. Many families get together once or twice a year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They start to realize that mom might not be doing as well as they thought they were going to be where there had been changes from the previously year when they saw mom. How’s it going Janet? How’s your morning going? We’re recording this on Monday morning. How’s everything going?
Janet:
It’s Monday morning. It’s actually having a little snow out there today.

 
Ryan McEniff:
Yeah, absolutely.
Janet:
This is a great topic because you don’t get to see your mom if you live a great distance or other circumstances. The holidays are a good time to assess just how moms really doing, and whether that someone that is at home, and maybe they have a visiting nurse coming, maybe they’re in assisted living, maybe they’re just by themselves. You want to see just how they are really doing. There’s enough positive fun in the air because it’s the holidays that you can kind of be discreet and have a look at things, and see what’s really going on with mom.

 

Assessing a Parent: What To Expect

 
Ryan McEniff:
Excellent. How do you prepare yourself for this journey?

 
Janet:
I think the best thing is to expect the unexpected. Mom may become more frail than the last time you saw her and that can be a little upsetting. All of a sudden, she looks older than she did. She may have had a trip or a fall and nobody told you about it. You walk in the door and there’s mom with her arm in a sling. You never know what you’re going to find. You need to prepare yourself, take a deep breath. Remember, you’re there to enjoy a holiday visit. Whatever it is that you find that you think needs changing, you’re not going to fix it that day. You just want to kind of take a step back and see what you can do going forward.
Ryan McEniff:
Absolutely. This isn’t an apples- to-apples comparison. I remember when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I moved from Denver to Florida to be by her side because we knew it was a terminal situation. She told me over the phone, “When you get here, I’m not going to be normal me. I’m using a walker and I don’t have any hair.” It didn’t really register until I open that door and saw her at 9:00 at night when I came. I’m like, “Wow! This is real. This is happening.” Even when you know beforehand, maybe things aren’t going as well as you hope they are, it’s still can be a shock to the system when you get in there and you see it for yourself. It becomes real.

 
Janet:
Absolutely. There’s the other piece of if you’re bringing children with you, whether they’re college age or whether they’re younger, it can be a bit of a shock to them too. You may have a situation where your mom kind of looks the same but maybe there’s a little bit of forgetfulness there. Children sometimes really get taken aback when their grandmother doesn’t remember their name. You just have to be prepared to kind of roll with the punches and get accustomed to what her world now is.

 
Ryan McEniff:
You just touched on it a little bit, but what do you look for? There are two things and you can go deep into it. You have physical issues and then you have cognitive issues. What do you look for when you’re in the situation?

Assessing A Parent: What To Look For

 
Janet:
When you go in to say hi right from the get-go, you will have a sense of whether your mom’s appearance is what it used to be. Maybe she was always dressed just so and her hair was always neat. She had her earrings and that type of thing. You go and her clothes don’t really look the same, or to some extent they could even be mismatched. She barely combed her hair and there’s no earrings, and that’s not the way mom was on the holidays. She may have slippers on because they’re easier for her instead of shoes, but maybe that’s not the safest thing for her walking around. Just looking at her general appearance and when you give her that hug, you’re going to have a little sense if maybe she’s not bathing or showering as she used to be. You just got to have to kind of go with the flow.

 
Ryan McEniff:
Absolutely. Those were all things to look for and be ready for as somebody gets older and older. When you found that mom needs help, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to jump on the deep end of the pool and go with 24 hours of private home care or go into a nursing home. There are small options to look at when you start seeing that mom might be declining some weight. What do you think are some of those that are small options?

 

Options After Assessing A Parent

 
Janet:
I think things like if it’s just a matter of she’s more frail and she needs a little bit of help, this is the perfect time because it’s the season of gift giving that you may consider some gifts of saying, “So mom, the groceries and things that you’re trying to get to the store and pick up, I’m going to give you a grocery delivery like Peapod or I guess Roche Bros. does one.” Someone said that Amazon now does a food delivery service as well. If it’s the idea, especially canned goods which are heavy items, and it’s not something that you’re looking over to see if it’s Bruce or not, groceries are great idea. Maybe she get a great lift if she got a gift card to get her hair done, things like that.

 
 
You may sense that there are other things that could need some help. Maybe there’s a neighbor that could help out with and maybe you want to give them a little gift card, and they can help look out for. It’s not always dramatic. By the end of the day, you have to pick out a nursing home for mom. You got to remember, that she may be frail but she still has pride and purpose. She wants to be respected as you would in her shoes.

 
Ryan McEniff:
Absolutely. When you think about some of those small options, those little gestures can go a long way. If somebody’s just emotionally having issues whether they’ve lost a spouse recently or they’re just lonely, giving the gift of your time and making sure that you’re over there in more than once a month is very important. If you’re seeing that mom is just getting a little frail, but that doesn’t mean that she needs 24-hour in home help. Having a conversation about an emergency button necklace or bracelet that if she falls, or she feels uncomfortable or unsafe, she has access to an emergency button that will bring somebody to help her is a very small step that can give peace of mind to her, and give peace of mind to the adult children and make sure their mom is safe. There are plenty of different options to look out when you’re in that situation. Then kind of, since we’re on the topic of options, what are some of the bigger options we can look at if we’re really seeing that mom is needing help?

 
Janet:
If mom needs some help like oftentimes the bathroom is an unsafe situation, maybe she needs some assistance with her personal care or her dressing, or helping with just even groceries once or twice a week, there are various services out there depending upon what finances are and just how stubborn mom may be. Some people are not that welcome to getting support, but you can even make a phone call to the local Council on Aging and find out what’s available in your community. There are ways you can go online and see what services are available. If you feel that there is a medical need, you may very well need to encourage her to get a checkup with the doctor. The doctor may find that there’s some things that need to be addressed, and then you can go that route as well; but mostly to be supportive and encourage her to want to live her life.

Assessing A Parent: What To Do With The Family

 
Ryan McEniff:
Absolutely. If we’re kind of looking at assessing a parent through a chronological order, we’ve gone there. We talked about what to prepare for, what to look for physically, emotionally. If somebody’s having cognitive issues, kind of what’s some of the options are. The families, they’re together at this time. Obviously, that’s not the place to have the big pow wow about this. What are the next steps as the families together on a holiday like Christmas or New Year that’s coming up? What do you think a family should do if they recognize this issue?

 
Janet:
Your family should get together and decide, and start looking at life down the road a little bit. It can be a simple manner of maybe it’s after the holiday dinner. Your mom sit in the chair watching the kids play with some toys under the tree. You and your siblings are going to just have a cup of coffee in the kitchen so that she can enjoy the time with the grandkids. That’s the time to say, “You know what? I think we need to sit down,” or have a conference call if people are at different locations and say, “What are the things that we need to do?” While you’re at the house, you noticed there are bills stacking up. Very often in families, there are people with different strengths.

 
 
It’s really great when people can utilize their various strengths. Maybe someone’s going to see how to best handle finances. Someone’s good talking with medical people. Somebody’s good at taking care of things in the house. Especially if you have one person who’s just reluctant to even have the conversation, maybe they’re in a denial. Maybe mom really surprised them how they were. The home is not the time to have an in-depth conversation. The best thing is for everyone to just kind of agree that you need to sit and have a chat, and plan a date and a time to get together before you leave; but don’t bring it up at the house.

 
Ryan McEniff:
Obviously, this isn’t something to talk about over the Christmas meal, or Thanksgiving meal, or things like that. Certainly, there is a benefit that when the family is all together because as we know it’s difficult with schedules, and spouses, and children to take time to be together. You can have a kind of a mini-conversation away in another room, and just recognize that mom is having an issue. “Hey, my siblings, we’re all agreeing that we’re seeing mom is having some memory issues.” “Yeah, everybody agrees.” “All right. We need to sit down and have a conversation at a later day.” It doesn’t need to be any more than that. I also think that it’s good to just see if everybody’s recognizing the same issues while everybody’s in the same room together and just doing that privately as well. 
 
Then, you can take the next steps like you were saying and setting a date whether that’s via email, whether it’s via all the different social apps so you can see each other, and get together and have a conversation about what to do.

 
Janet:
Yeah. I think that’s the best to do it. There’s very little things that you hate to have to have those kind of conversations, but you should all agree who’s going to be the … What they call they have a contact, so that we can talk about it at another time to make sure that everyone or whoever needs to, has the legal ability to talk to the doctor; because you could have the family member that lives closest and takes to the doctor, but they’re not the ones that are able to get all the information they need. Those kinds of conversations and check list that you can go over to get that information is something that is much better done in a family meeting over a Sunday dinner at one of the sibling’s house, or email, or whatever works. Those are all the little bitty, nitty-gritty things that you’re going to be glad you have later on.

 
Ryan McEniff:
Absolutely. I think it’s a conversation unfortunately not enough families have, because we see it all the time that families call us up looking for services. They have no idea what to do, where to go from there. I think if people do some small planning, and some research, and some homework, not a lot just a little bit, it’s going to make life easier for everybody in their family and their parents. Everybody will have a plan for what eventually is going to happen where people get older and they need assistance after assessing a parent.

 
Janet:
I think if you try and keep it light, and keep it in the context of … I often listen to people with young kids beginning of school the forms they have to fill out. Who do you call in an emergency? Who’s their doctor? All of these things for your kids to be ready for school, you really do in the same thing for your mom. When you look at it that way, it also helps to take some of the pressure off.

 
Ryan McEniff:
Excellent. Thank you for your insight Janet. We’re going to wrap up our first ever episode of the Caregiver’s Toolbox. Our episodes will come out every Tuesdays, so look for a new episode then. Thank you very much for listening and have a great week everybody.

 

Wrapping Up Episode One: Assessing a Parent During Family Gatherings

Thanks for listening to our first episode on assessing a parent during the holidays and family gatherings.  You can comment below using Facebook or reach out on twitter: @mwhomecare.  Thanks again for listening/reading about assessing a parent during family gatherings.