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Chicago Senior Care During the Holidays: Thanksgiving and Dementia

If you are like millions of folks in this country, you might be counting the days until Thanksgiving. Typically this creates a minor panic considering all the preparation most of us put into making the holiday happen.  If you are a caregiver, it can be about more than meal preparations; it can also be about taking the opportunity for a “wellness check” on an elder mom or dad or other elderly loved one.  I will talk about special food considerations in another posting, but let me offer some tips on what you can check to make sure the senior in your orbit is still in great shape.

            First, it is important to recognize that we all – and I mean all – forget some things some of the time.  So this short check list goes beyond the normal slips that will affect us all, regardless of age.  Here are six suggestions on what to note when you all gather for the feast: 


  1. If you are gathering at your elderly loved one’s place, you have an opportunity to check out what is in their refrigerator. Look for items that are well beyond an expiration date or simply have become a science experiment.
  2. If they still drive a car, you may volunteer to run some errands. Use the opportunity to see that the tires are fully-inflated, the oil has been changed, the brakes are in good working order, etc.
  3. While I certainly don’t recommend a white glove inspection, you will probably be able to see if the place looks as tidy and orderly as you remember it from last year and years gone by.
  4. If your senior owns a pet, does the animal appear healthy and well cared for? You may want to check to see if the tags show current vaccines.
  5. If you have a chance to talk with neighbors or friends who see your older relative throughout the year, try to enlist their help in looking out for that relative, especially since you may not be around but a few times a year.
  6. Holidays are a time for catching up and sharing news. If your older relative repeats the same story within a single conversation, make note of it as short term memory loss is a sign of dementia. 
  7. Take note of personal hygiene. Seniors are entitled to hang on to a favorite sweater or other item because they simply are attached to it, but you will notice if hygiene is becoming a bit lax.
  8. Finally, just ask. You can show your willingness to help in any number of ways and make a list. Keep in mind, they may feel comfortable just letting you know if they have not felt quite right lately.   

With all of this, make sure you have a good line of communication with siblings or others in the family so that you all can compare notes.  You want to be helpful, not alarming.


Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  Please email your questions to more about What We Do and how we can help you support your loved one.


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