As 2022 comes to a close, you may be thinking about doing more to support your aging mother, father, grandparent, or other loved one. Many families are grappling with similar challenges, especially at this time of the year. I came to appreciate this because year after year, the month of January consistently brought a surge in the number of new requests for supportive caregiving assistance from my home care company.
I believe there are a few reasons why this time of the year produces an increase in family caregiving activity.
First and foremost, this season brings families together. As families convene for special holiday celebrations, it may become apparent that your aging loved one isn’t doing as well as you previously thought.
If face-to-face contact has been limited throughout the year, and you now have the opportunity to interact more with your loved one, their current physical or mental condition may be more evident to you. Perhaps a holiday trip permits you to visit your aging parent at home for the first time in a while, and you observe that things around the house have been neglected. Maybe spending a few days with your loved one enables you to see physical or cognitive decline that wasn’t obvious before.
On a related note, holiday family gatherings allow extended families to get together, which could be particularly important when members of your family live far away. If you have adult siblings who are busy and geographically dispersed, this could be the first time you have to talk collectively about how to help Mom or Dad. It’s not uncommon for adult children to start conversations about coordinating care for aging parents now because they’re together and sharing notes about changes they’ve seen in Mom or Dad.
Weather is another factor. Winter months can be especially difficult for older adults with chronic conditions or physical limitations. Aging generally makes all of us more sensitive to the cold, but specific health conditions—such as chronic pain, diabetes, or heart problems—can be made worse in cold weather. Snow and ice greatly increase the risk of falling among older adults. You may also discover that Mom or Dad can no longer handle snow removal around their house. My father-in-law abruptly died of a heart attack while he was shoveling snow after a winter storm at his Pittsburgh home.
Finally, this season presents an opportunity for reflection and new year’s resolutions. As we usher in the new year, many people are motivated to make necessary changes in their lives. Often these resolutions are focused on wellness, either for oneself or in family relationships. Aging adults may determine that it’s time to get more help with activities of daily living, or adult children may resolve to do more to support a parent in need.
As you take an inventory of your life at the close of 2022, this message may resonate with you. If caregiving seems to be looming around the corner, I would encourage you to avoid procrastinating. Please don’t wait for a crisis to arise. The earlier that you start to consider the implications of caregiving for you and your loved one, the more prepared you will be when caregiving calls.