Holiday Season and How Are Your Aging Parents?

by Barbara Nevins Taylor

When families come together during holiday season, many things are revealed.

We share our love, stories about our lives, and sometimes we even tell the truth.

The last thing most of us want to do is take a critical look at our aging parents. But while we’re all together and relatively relaxed, it is an opportunity to take a second look and give a second listen to what’s going on.

If you do it now, you may save yourself and your family a lot of heartache later. Lou-Ellen Barkan, President and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, NYC Chapter, says, “You can’t go wrong when you are talking about making people safer. But you can go wrong by ignoring an obvious situation.”

Her personal story highlights the difficulties most families face.

Barkan took care of her aging parents before her current job when she worked in politics and finance. She says, “My parents lived in Florida, which is very far away from New York City, especially if you are busy working person.” 

Her dad developed dementia after prostate surgery and years later, after a stroke, the dementia deepened.

“Here was this man who was on his own, ran a business, played golf all of the time, and suddenly he needed a great deal of help,” she said.  Her mom was the caretaker.  “My mother kept him at home. And was very good to him, but it was tough on her.” Barkan recalls.  

Lou-Ellen Barkan, Mom, and First Great-GranddaughterAfter her dad died, her mother began to decline.  She was 78 and insisted on remaining in her home. Barkan and her brother did successfully convince their mom to allow someone to come in and help in the mornings.

It didn’t take long for them to understand that something was really wrong. “My mother started falling out of bed. When the aide would come in, she would be on the floor.”  

And then there was a bigger event, which is typical for most older people in decline: “She really had a fall. She went to the hospital and from the hospital they would not allow her to go home. At that point, I would say that her cognitive abilities were down 30 to 50 percent.”

Barkan and her family arranged for their mom to move to an assisted living facility in Florida. But six months later she had a stroke and could no longer do anything on her own. Barkan’s family moved her to New York and into the Sarah Newman residence in Mamaronek. Barkin says, “It was a wonderful place. She was there for a year-and-a-half and was safe and comfortable.”

We all want safety and comfort for our parents. But if their memory is slipping and they are still driving, or simply living alone, it’s potentially dangerous.

That’s why as painful as it may be, it’s a good idea to try to evaluate what’s going on 

“We have what we call the ten signs of dementia and if you see three or four you need to pay attention,” Barkan says.


10 Warning Signs of Dementia

1. Forgetting dates, asking the same information over and over or overly relying on notes and other things to spur memory.

2. Having difficulty doing routine things like following a recipe, or a plan.

3. Difficulty completing a task like playing a game of Scrabble.

4. Confusion about dates and time.

5. Vision problems that affect spacial judgment or the ability to see colors.

6. Trouble with words or following a conversation.

7. Misplacing things without being able to retrace steps.

8. Using poor judgment like taking excess money out of the bank, or giving away large sums to charities or telemarketers.

9. Withdrawing from company and social activities

10. Changes in mood and attitude that may lead them to be depressed, paranoid or overly suspicious.


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Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.

5 thoughts on “Holiday Season and How Are Your Aging Parents?”

  1. That’s great Barbara! I wish my mom would listen to us and move closer to her children so that we could be there for her more often. She is independent though. I have had to learn to honor her wishes, something I learned by reading “Rich in Years” by Johann Christoph Arnold her feelings are very important to us. So far she is doing well and we all keep close tabs on her- call her every day/night and have neighbors on alert who also check in on her for us.

    1. Keeping tabs is very important. Our mom was extremely independent and was in good shape for a long time. But we called daily and visited often. We couldn’t get her to accept help until she had to do it. This is what I put together about it.
      Please share the links with others who can benefit!

  2. Great post. We experienced similar occurrences with our mom. Thank God my sister was able to place her in a very upscale facility, where she received the best care. At the beginning, it was difficult to discuss her condition, and steady decline. We made the right choice, and thankfully, she was able to live the last years of her long life, at peace. Blessings.

    1. Thanks very much. We had the same issue with our mom. Fortunately we were able to bring her to New York relatively early and she enjoyed a good life here. I did a video post about it that you might find interesting:

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