The holidays are upon us and many people will be traveling to visit friends and family over the next few weeks.
Trips to my grandmothers’ homes were very common and anticipated during the holiday season. I spent many Thanksgivings and Christmases at one house or the other. Dad drove through quite a few West Virginia snow storms and holiday traffic jams, but he always managed to get us there safely and then back home again.
For me, these trips are full of wonderful memories. The smell of my grammy’s roast cooking on top of her coal-fueled stove; or the intricate details of my grandma’s basement where I would play for hours on end, strategic games of checkers, card games and putting together puzzles — all of these memories are still with me today.
It wasn’t too many years later that our travel plans changed. One thing that my parents undoubtedly noticed during those holiday visits was the sometimes-subtle changes that were taking place as my grandparents’ aged. Things like shopping, cooking, cleaning, keeping up with the daily chores, etc., were becoming noticeably more challenging for them.
Also, neighbors were more likely back then to let you know when Grammy was having a bad day. Now neighbors rarely talk to one another.
In due time, my grandmothers would come to live with us for months at a time. Holidays would now be celebrated at our home with relatives making the trip through the snow and hills of Pennsylvania to enjoy a turkey dinner or open Christmas presents. And what would a holiday be without Mom’s special cranberry Jell-O mold. Again, these wonderful memories are still fresh in my mind.
I remember one Christmas season when my grandmother was recuperating with us after she had fallen and dislocated her hip. I had just broken my ankle during a high school wrestling match. We both hobbled around the house for weeks while mom took care of us. Oh, those were the good ol’ days.
As you travel to near and far places this holiday season, be sure to pay special attention to the living situations and details of the friends and family members you visit. It is often during these trips that someone will end up making a comment like, “Wow, Dad needs more help around the house,” or, “I didn’t know Mom was struggling so much to take her medicine properly.”
These are real-life situations that only become worse when there is no intervention.
An intervention may be as simple as having someone visit more often, or hiring a companion to help with the daily chores like cooking, cleaning and shopping. There are also some neat products on the market today to help Mom remember to take her medicine — although nothing beats an actual person assisting with that activity.
When my grandparents started struggling, my parents did what they thought was best and had each of them stay with us at different times of the year — they shared that responsibility with other brothers and sisters in the family and it seemed to work. Not all families are the same. What works for one may not work for another.
But in all circumstances where an older parent or grandparent is struggling, it is most important to take some form of action to make the situation better — before it gets worse. This way you and your family can have many happy holiday memories that will last a lifetime.
DeLong is the executive director of The Suites at Station Exchange. Email him at Suites.StationExchange@gmail.com.