Home from the Holidays – Now What? (Part I)

Although the year-end holidays are over, situations you experienced or observations you made may linger and be the source of some concern. Did you see any of these on your visit home?

 As you read the following necessarily limited information, please keep in mind that we are not doctors and are not offering a one-size fits all solution for any given situation.  Note also that in cases of financial exploitation, abuse, caregiver neglect, or self-neglect, the local department of social/human services Adult Protective Services can investigate the situation and make recommendations or take actions for the protection of the individual.


Your loved one may have exhibited signs of new or increased confusion beyond the usual “company’s here and I have a million things to do” hectic forgetfulness.  Your loved one may have forgotten to take her medication or could not explain what the medication was for.  He may not remember names, may not be able to answer questions, may have trouble recalling what common objects are called, or may get lost in otherwise familiar places.  Causes of confusion include dementia, vitamin deficiencies, urinary tract infections (especially in women), dehydration, TIAs (sometimes called “mini-strokes”), and drug interactions.

What can you do?  Some options include the following:

  • Ask your loved one’s pharmacist to review all her medications for interactions; then discuss any problematic combinations with her doctor to see if changes can be made.

  • Encourage your family member to visit his doctor for a physical and/or bloodwork or other testing to rule out other causes of the confusion. You may be able to schedule the appointment for him yourself.

  • Write or call the doctor’s office to share your concerns; even if the doctor will not discuss your family member’s medical information with you, you can share your observations with the doctor.

Poor or Inconsistent Eating Habits

Your loved one may forget to eat or eat very little.  When you arrived, the refrigerator may have been empty or the food in it spoiled.  Your family member may have lost a lot of weight.  Perhaps your loved one forgets to eat (or sometimes, forgets that she has eaten already).  Grocery shopping may be difficult because of problems driving or because mobility impairments make it difficult to get out and about.  Eating maybe reduced or avoided because dental or mouth pain, difficulty swallowing, or stomach upset.  Your family member may sleep through mealtimes and eat less as a result.

What can you do?  Some options include the following:

  • If your loved one can safely cook, then a meal delivery services may be an option. There are many meal services that ship food packaged in easy-to-prepare meals on a weekly basis.

    1. Grocery shopping services may be an option. Many grocery stores offer a shopping service and will shop for the individual based on a customizable list. The order may be placed online. Delivery may be arranged through a driving service or, if the person is able to drive, by driving to the store for pick up. Some grocery stores have dedicated parking close to the front door for people who use this service.

    2. Many areas are served by a Meals on Wheels or similar service that delivers prepared meals to homebound seniors.

As above, a visit to the doctor may be required to determine the cause of unexplained weight loss, to address poor sleeping patterns, or to change medication or a medication schedule that may be interfering with meals. A visit to the dentist may also be helpful to identify and address the source of mouth or dental pain.

Financial Exploitation, Abuse, or Caregiver Neglect

Your loved one may be withdrawing large amounts of cash on a regular basis and sending it to someone who calls him with promises of greater riches; she may be responding to emails asking for money; he may be paying acquaintances or neighbors money for services that are not provided; she may be making “loans” that are not documented and are not being repaid.  Your loved one may have bruises or cuts that she cannot explain; they may be paying for personal or household care yet look unkempt, have piles of unwashed clothing or bedding, stacks of unwashed dishes, or other causes of concern.

What can you do?  Some options include the following:

  • A call to Adult Protective Services and/or the police department may be in order in cases of financial exploitation or abuse or neglect.

  • Depending on the estate planning documents your loved one has in place, someone else may be able to act on her behalf.

  • His financial institution may put a temporary freeze on the account pending an investigation.

  • Your loved one’s doctor can be asked to offer an opinion on your loved one’s capacity to protect himself from exploitation. If your loved one lacks the ability to protect himself, then you may need to consider petitioning to be appointed his guardian and/or conservator.

  • Your loved one may want to consider moving into an assisted living facility or contract with a reputable home health agency for assistance at home.

Although seeing changes in your loved one’s ability to care for herself can be disheartening, empathic assistance can make a big difference in her quality of life.  We understand what it is like to provide emotional and care assistance to family members in need.  In a future article, we will provide additional information on how to protect and/or assist a loved one who is less able to care for himself.

If you are not sure what steps to take or where to turn, please contact us online or call us at (757) 279-8127 to schedule a consultation appointment to discuss your options.


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