Here’s a lightly updated version of an article we first ran on Dec. 11, 2012. Like some of the other articles about this topic we’ve been re-posting this week, it may help you and your clients begin a long and difficult conversation about how things have changed.

Here we are in the middle of another holiday season.

Like most people, I enjoy spending the holidays in the company of family and friends, catching up on the year’s events and reliving old memories.

As you speak with clients this month, remind them how holiday visits can also be an important opportunity to check in on aging parents and older relatives with an eye toward their potential long-term care (LTC) needs.

(Related: Turkey Time: 4 Year-End Review Strategies)

Of course, there are a number of comprehensive tools and resources available to assess one’s LTC needs, but here are four things to keep in mind before taking the next steps.

1. Day-to-day life
Evaluate how loved ones handle everyday tasks or activities of daily living. Are they struggling to get dressed or bathe without help? Are they able to lend a hand in the kitchen when preparing a holiday meal or feed themselves during dinner? If visiting a loved one’s home, be sure to also check how they get around the house – including up and down stairs – or if the home presents any safety issues.

2.Physical health
Simply asking, “How are you?” can start a conversation that sheds a little light on everything from daily issues to recent doctor visits that give a clearer picture their health. Also, see if they have noticeably lost weight (a sign they may not be eating well) and observe if they are maintaining their personal health and well-being.

3. Mental health
Consider their emotional state. Do they have a positive attitude or do they require encouragement to accomplish ordinary tasks? Are they still interested in their usual hobbies or activities?dementia

It’s also a good idea to be on the lookout red flags such as memory lapses that disrupt their lives. Examples include struggling with vocabulary (such forgetting names of relatives or household items), misplacing belongings and finding them in odd places, or repeatedly asking the same questions. You can also test their memory during holiday visits by asking about notable dates or events from their lives.

We can’t always get check up on family members in person.

But, as we pause to give thanks and wish for good health and happiness this holiday season, take the opportunity to ensure parents or aging loved ones can live alone safely and comfortably.

It may turn out to be the right time to have an open discussion about LTC planning and how solutions like LTCI can help preserve their independence and ensure their needs are met.

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