Home for the Holidays Part 2: 6 Solutions for Grandma

Companion Home Care

Photo courtesy of Liz Feldman

Sometimes people find themselves three states away from Grandma and Grandpa, and the only time they get to see their parents face-to-face is during the holidays.  When having day-to-day contact with people, it’s hard to see the changes in posture or weight, but when you see them just two or three times a year, those changes can make a big impression.  For the adult children of elderly parents, it can be quite a shock!

It’s not uncommon for home care companies to get an increase in calls during the holiday times.  If you find yourself surprised about the condition of Grandma’s home or the hitch in Grandma’s getup, you’re not alone.  The holidays, as we saw in Part 1, are an opportune time to check in and see how things are going.  If you see any signs for concern, here are some suggestions to get the ball rolling:

1.  Have a Heart-to-Heart. Sit down and talk with Grandma about your concerns.  Be very cautious about bringing up phrases like assisted living or nursing home, which can be trigger words for many seniors.  However, if you are noticing changes in her behavior, in reality, she is probably more concerned about it than she leads you to believe.  The goal of this discussion is to share your concerns and open the door to discussing solutions.  Keep it as non-threatening as possible.

2.  Tackle Problem Areas. If the conversation goes well, offer immediately to help with a few areas that challenge Grandma.  Maybe she can’t get downstairs to the laundry room, so you can offer to do her laundry while you’re there.  Perhaps she’s afraid of showering alone, so you offer her standby assistance in the shower.  For a senior struggling to keep up with her housekeeping, an offer to dust a few rooms and clean out the refrigerator can make a huge short-term difference.

3.  Suggest Solutions. Hopefully at some point, Grandma will be open to having some help if she needs it.  This might be anything from lining up a nurse to dispense medications, getting a niece to help with vacuuming, or making arrangements for a program like Meals on Wheels.  If there are not family members or friends able to pitch in, there are a variety of home care companies that can provide nurses, home health aides, personal care attendants, or homemakers.  If cost is a concern, there may be financial assistance available through the county or state.

4.  Schedule a Doctor’s Visit. Grandma may need some encouragement to see a doctor.  Sometimes fear leads people to avoid the doctor, but a doctor may be able to help with pain or balance issues.  Perhaps Grandma doesn’t need help taking showers as much as she needs a shower chair or new medication for her arthritis pain.  A doctor is a good place to start to find these things out.

5.  List Contacts. Take this opportunity to collect important names and phone numbers in case there is a crisis in the future.  This list might include friends, neighbors, clergy, doctors, case managers, and others who are in regular contact with Grandma.  Should there be a crisis or a quick need for someone to check in on her, you’ll have a list of contacts at your fingertips.

In a safe place, keep records of Grandma’s medical and financial information.  Also secure access to all vital documents, including her will, power of attorney, health directive, birth certificate, social security number, insurance policies, deed to her home, and driver’s license.  If she has an attorney or financial planner, it may be helpful to have their names and numbers as well.  If she doesn’t have some of these documents in place, now is the time to work on completing them.

6.  Make a To-Do List. Before a crisis happens is the time to compile a to-do list to implement over a period of future visits.  This might include scheduling doctor’s visits; lining up family members to help; looking into bath railings, shower chairs, or other home adaptations; and investigating financial or other assistance through the county.


Many seniors live safely and successfully in their own homes with little, if any, intervention.  If that is the case with Grandma, she might just appreciate knowing you care.  However, if she needs serious assistance down the road, preparing in advance provides you with choices.  Waiting to react in crisis only serves to limit your options.

Carol Hauser, M.A.



December 2, 2011

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