By Kristina R. Hess
One of the greatest blessings of the holiday season is gathering with friends and loved ones that we don’t normally see throughout the year. For some that means visiting with aunts, uncles, cousins and friends over a lively Thanksgiving dinner. For others, the holidays are a rare chance to spend quality time with parents or siblings who live out of state.
This special holiday time together with loved ones also presents a unique opportunity to spot changes in older family members that may indicate a greater need for long-term care.
Fresh Eyes on The Problem
It’s not unusual for slight personality or behavior changes to go unnoticed by those who see your loved one on a regular basis. It’s much like living at home with small children; you don’t realize how much they’ve grown until their clothes no longer fit! The same is true with older relatives who may be changing in subtle, yet concerning ways.
Know The Warning Signs
What exactly should you be paying attention to as you visit with elderly family and friends? Here’s a brief list of warning signs that may indicate your loved one needs additional help around the house or increased medical care:
- Neglect of physical appearance or basic hygiene
- Neglect of medical needs
- Trouble performing routine tasks or chores
- Personality changes
- Sudden money trouble due to inability to handle affairs
- Unsteadiness, clumsiness or recent history of falling
- No longer responds to sounds or sudden loud noises
- Wearing inappropriate clothing based on the weather
- Has trouble answering simple questions
- Repeats the same information or asks the same questions during short conversations
If your loved one displays any of the signs above, it’s important to address the situation as soon as possible. If you don’t feel comfortable going directly to your aging loved one, talk with other family members to see if they also noticed unusual behaviors or warning signs. From there you can approach your loved one together to discuss the possibility of increased care, whether it be regular check-ins from family members, moving to assisted living or placement in a nursing home.
Get Help Before Making Long-Term Care Decisions
Should your loved one display signs that in-home, assisted living or nursing home care may be necessary in the future, it’s equally important to sit down with an attorney to ensure that your loved one is legally and financially prepared for the transition.
Your estate or elder law attorney will help prepare key documents such as powers of attorneys and healthcare directives, as well as advise the family on ways to protect as many assets as possible for heirs or a healthy spouse still living at home. A good estate lawyer can also help the family feel confident that they are making the best possible decisions for future financial security and peace of mind during an otherwise challenging time.
Kristina R. Hess, Esq., is the owner of KR Hess Law, PC, a boutique San Diego estate planning firm dedicated to helping people provide for and protect their loved ones through comprehensive estate planning, trusts, and wills. She was voted the Best Lawyer San Diego North Coast in 2015.