Home for the Holidays: Are Mom and Dad Okay?

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The holidays are traditionally a time for families to gather together from far and wide.

For some who do not live near aging parents and who see them only during holidays and special occasions, it can also be an important opportunity to gauge how they are doing physically, mentally and financially. Below are a few questions to ask yourself during your next holiday gathering:

Are your parents able to care for themselves?

It’s natural for people to look older and slow down as they age, and physical changes appear more pronounced when visits are infrequent.

Despite the deepening wrinkles and increasing gray hairs, however, are your parents able to manage daily tasks such as cooking or housekeeping? Are they eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight? Are they mobile and able to care for themselves? If not, they may need help.

For more signs that your parents may require household help and what you can do about it, click here.

Do your parents exhibit any signs of cognitive decline?

We all forget little things, and our forgetfulness does become more pronounced as we age. However, there’s a difference between occasional forgetfulness and cognitive decline associated with conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Do your aging parents forget names of grandchildren and friends? Are they forgetting important dates or events or asking you to repeat the same information over and over again? Do they experience sudden mood swings? These can be early symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s that should be evaluated by a doctor.

For more information about the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s website by clicking on the link.

Are your parents still capable of managing their financial affairs?

Cognitive decline can result in financial problems and can make the elderly more susceptible to financial exploitation. A study by Met Life found that about one million elderly people lose over $2.9 billion each year as a result of financial abuse.

Look for clues that may suggest a problem. For example, do your parents have stacks of unopened mail, unpaid bills or overdraft notices? This can be an indication that your parents are losing their capacity to handle their financial affairs.

Being capable of keeping up with their monthly bills doesn’t necessarily insulate them from unscrupulous individuals who prey on the elderly. Does it appear that your normally frugal parents are making uncharacteristically extravagant purchases for friends or caregivers? Do their bank statements reveal unexplained withdrawals or transfers from bank accounts?  Have their spending pattern’s changed dramatically? If so, they may have been victimized.

For more information on financial exploitation of the elderly and what you can do about it, visit the National Adult Protective Services Association website by following the link. For tips on how to prevent financial elder abuse, read this excellent article from Consumer Reports.

What next?

If you have any concerns, it’s important that you talk to your parents. Having conversations about health and financial issues can be difficult to start. Be respectful and reassure them that you love them and will do whatever you can to help. Treat them always as you would one day like your children to treat you.

I hope you and your family have a happy Thanksgiving!

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