Annual Holiday Thoughts
It’s hard to believe another year has flown by and the Holidays are upon us. Whether you are visiting from afar, or simply spending more time with your family, it is an opportune time to observe if dad and mom have aged, even if you haven’t. Sometimes, it is easier for the child who lives farther away and has less chance to visit, to notice declines in a parent’s abilities to handle daily matters, because that child may see more dramatic change than the slow incremental change that creeps upon you daily.
What are warning signs of decreased function? Letters or bills scattered about, and bills not paid on time indicate confusion and inability to concentrate. Missed medications are another. Does the refrigerator have very out of date or spoiling food? Is housekeeping being neglected or done poorly? Does a parent walk around without carefully watching for doorsills or rugs that could trip them, indicating a lack of safety awareness? Are clothes being washed on a reasonable interval? Does the old Buick Century have many new scrapes and dents? The list could go on and on, but the important point to keep in mind is that unobtrusive observation can give you important hints on the possible need for help, without upsetting your mom or dad.
No one wants to stifle the joy of family get-togethers, so after your eyes and ears tell you something has changed, get together with your siblings and use your good judgment and tact in gently raising the issue of getting some help, especially if safety is concerned. That help can be as simple as a daily phone call to see if medications are taken.
If your parent is widowed, loneliness could grow into a serious problem, resulting in loss of appetite and weight. It is no fun to eat alone. Visits to the Senior Center for activities, or moving to an assisted living facility may provide welcome companionship. People always worry about the cost of assisted living, but if your parent is a wartime veteran, both the veteran and the spouse may qualify for a Veteran’s program called Aid and Attendance, which in some cases can pay almost $2,000 per month toward the cost.
And Connecticut has three levels of programs under the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders which can provide various levels of care at home for those who qualify. The highest level, which is Medicaid (Title 19), can provide about $5,600 per month of care, plus pay medicals on top of that. It is a significant amount of care.
So if you think you see signs of decline that call out for extra care, don’t hesitate to consult with a qualified Elder Law attorney who can give you an overview of how to qualify for the care and funding that is available to keep your parents safe in their home, and out of a nursing home. The best present, of course, is your sharing time with your parents, but the next best present may very well be you taking a gentle lead in showing them how they can get needed help, maintain their dignity, and share many more holidays with just a little bit of assistance.