Most people value their independence and are apprehensive about losing their autonomy – we like to believe we can do it all on our own. And as we age we may not want to admit to new vulnerabilities that arise from old age. During the holiday season elders often feel compelled to summon their strength and present their best selves to visiting family members. This transformation can last beyond the first few days and as a result loved ones can mask their underlying problems.
Recognizing When an Elderly Person May Need Assistance
While your elderly family member may attempt to conceal their need for help, certain signs can help you gauge their overall condition. During your visit, consider the following five questions to assess their physical and mental health:
Is Their Mail Accumulating?
A mounting pile of unattended mail may indicate that your loved one is struggling to manage their affairs. This could be due to declining health, depression, or early signs of dementia. You can approach the subject gently, such as by offering to help them get organized. If you are met with a highly defensive response it may be an indication that this individual is struggling in this area.
What Is in Their Refrigerator?
An excessively stocked fridge isn’t necessarily a positive sign. While your loved one may not forget to buy groceries, they might forget to eat. A quick inspection of their refrigerator can reveal potential issues. Instead of being frustrated and cleaning it out, consider it as a possible indication that they need help.
Where Are Their Medications and Supplements?
These should be stored in one place and kept up to date. Disorganized or expired medication may suggest that they’re struggling to manage their health or remember to take and refill their prescriptions. If they need assistance, who is overseeing their medications?
How Are Bills Being Handled?
Many people nowadays set up automatic bill payments, but certain bills and expenses still require manual handling. Is your elderly family member up-to-date with their payments? Are they paying bills multiple times?
Where Are Their Legal Documents?
Approach this area with caution. If you are not the designated family member responsible for this, refrain from delving into it. However, if you are the one expected to handle these matters it is essential to know the location of these documents. Nowadays, many attorneys do not retain the original Wills, Powers of Attorney, and other legal documents for their clients. Where are these documents? When was the last time your loved one visited their attorney, and is their plan up to date?
Original legal documents, particularly Powers of Attorney and Last Wills, can be crucial for executing an estate plan. Sometimes cognitive decline causes the elderly to become excessively concerned about protecting these documents, possibly leading to their loss or damage. At some point it might be best to remove the originals from the elder’s home.
Long-Term Care (Nursing Homes)
Transitioning a loved one into a long-term care facility can be a challenging and emotional process, and Covid has brought about more than a public health crisis – it has also forced many individuals into isolation and loneliness. For some, remaining alone at home is more distressing than the potential risks of a long-term care facility. Moving to a well-managed facility might be precisely what an isolated and vulnerable elderly person needs.
If you are directly or indirectly responsible for a loved one you are visiting this holiday season who is exhibiting signs that long-term care might be needed in the future, it is wise to begin discussing what type of facility your loved one would like to be in. Having this conversation early is best. When long-term care is needed urgently you do not want to have to begin asking these questions. Moreover, there is limited capacity at most long-term care facilities so it best to look at options ahead of time.
Above all though, cherish the moments you spend with your loved ones this holiday season. As people age these moments become even more precious, as none of us knows who will be here tomorrow. Regardless of your loved one’s physical and mental health, the opportunity to create lasting memories at such a special time as the holiday season remains.
Does Your Aging Loved One Require Assistance? Contact Us Today!
At Monique M. Sadarangani, PLLC, we are committed to safeguarding your estate and the wishes of you and your family. Whether you are unsure about how to best support your elderly loved ones or you need experienced representation and guidance for complex legal matters, we are prepared to assist you and your family with compassion and dedication.