With the holidays now behind us, this is a common time to reflect on family gatherings. What went right? What went wrong? Which relationships changed? When did Uncle Mike start using a cane? Did it seem that Mom moved a little slower? Whether you were the host or you traveled to see family and friends, these small, brief encounters have the ability to provide observant adult children the opportunity to pause and notice the state of their family and relatives, particularly parents and aging family members. It’s a chance to take mental notes on how parents are changing, their overall function level, the status of their health and how they are really doing.
Blount Memorial licensed clinical social worker Edward Harper says because of this, the post-holiday months of January and February can become the “season of caregivers.” “After those family interactions around Thanksgiving and Christmas, January often becomes a time of increased family phone calls, texts and emails, especially between siblings, to discuss the things they observed or experienced over the holidays,” Harper said. “These conversations are important because they’re an attempt to reach an understanding and consensus about the abilities of parents or elder family members. Conversations focus on the consideration or need for assistance and discuss how the perceived need could be approached. Caregiving in its early stages is a progressive response to a sensing of need, and it often can be a confusing and emotional process. Offering care to a loved one can feel like a disrespectful act of interfering with the independence of parents or an impaired relative. It may feel intrusive. It may also feel threatening knowing that an offer of care or assistance could be met with admonishment and anger,” he explained.
Harper suggests that broaching these topics is easier when you have an outside perspective and a strategic approach. “When attempting to offer care to family, it can be helpful to have the opportunity to discuss the situation with a non-biased person,” he said. “If you are sensing that family members may be experiencing lapses and losses in their ability to care for themselves safely due to physical or medical conditions, or if memory issues and losses of intellectual capacity are becoming noticeable and are creating unsafe living, driving, or financial situations, then having a conversation with an objective professional can be a good start to understanding your observations and creating a plan for offering care,” he explained. “Blount Memorial Senior Services offers free caregiver consultations to allow caregivers time to discuss their situations and explore possible strategies and resources. These are confidential consultations that can assist the caregiver in gaining clarity of the situation and developing a plan of care for their loved ones,” he added.
For more information about caregiver consultations, contact Blount Memorial Senior Services at 865-977-5744.