My parents lived just three blocks away from me until a couple of months ago when we needed to move them. Their decline was gradual and because they lived close by I was able to keep an eye on them and help them stay in their home.
Many of my friends have parents who live far away and they don’t see them often but they go home for thanksgiving or their parents come for a visit or they see then during the holidays. The holidays are a great time to check up on mom and dad. I can give you a list of things to look for. I like to start by peaking in the fridge. You can tell a lot about a persons overall health and well being by the amount and type of food that is on hand.
My parents always told me they were fine and they never needed any help. I always had to make excuses to help them. I would tell them that I had to go to the store anyway and that they should come with or I could just drop a few things off for them.
As their health started to decline their home got messier and they more or less stopped cooking and ate bowls of cereal or ice cream. Meals-on-wheels helped but on the weekends if I did not cook or bring food they did not eat much. It helped to have house cleaning services for a few months, but they mostly could not tolerate outside help and would only allow it for two hours a week.
They stopped cleaning and eventually stopped doing laundry. Since they did not need any help I would let myself into their place early in the morning, tidy up a bit and remove the dishes from last nights dinner and wash them and then start the coffee and maybe make a little breakfast. They didn’t need to have me make breakfast but always ate the eggs I left for them.
If you spend time with the elderly people in your family this thanksgiving pay attention to how they look and act. Are their clothes clean? Are they dressed appropriately? Are they wearing socks? Are they having any trouble remembering words or names? Have they gained or lost a noticeable amount weight in the last few months?
If you are visiting them open the refrigerator and maybe peek into the waste basket in the kitchen and open a few cupboards. Check for prescription drugs too and look at the dates on the bottles.
I respect my elders and I respect their privacy but I know from personal experience that sometimes people need help but they won’t ask for it and they can even reach a stage where they can no longer live independently. Sometimes they forget how to pay the bills or maybe they are alright but they just can’t maintain a home anymore.
Maybe no one ever died of a dirty house and cleaning is a choice but when someone’s blood pressure is sky high because they have decided that taking prescription drugs is optional or when they can no longer dress themselves or put on their own socks it might be appropriate to step in and help or find them some help.