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Happy Thanksgiving From A Place for Mom

Caitlin Burm
By Caitlin BurmNovember 14, 2019

Last Updated: November 14, 2019

Getting together with the whole family to celebrate Thanksgiving gives you the perfect opportunity to observe aging parents’ behavior and discuss how to help.

As families mature, children begin to have children of their own. This can make it difficult to get everyone together regularly to discuss important family matters. For this reason, a lot of adult children reserve the assisted living discussion for the holiday season. In fact, many individuals first notice Mom or Dad’s strange behavior during this time as well. If you, like so many other family members, want to approach the topic of more comprehensive senior care over cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, or after local harvest festivals, it’s important that you understand how to do so sensitively and effectively. This guide explores signs it’s time to have the discussion and appropriate ways to bring it up on Thanksgiving day.

Signs It’s Time for Assisted Living

It’s understandable that many caring individuals do not want to bring up senior care during the national Thanksgiving Day Parade or over a feast of turkey and green bean casserole. However, for many families, the federal holiday on the fourth Thursday in November is the only time to do so. Many family members head to their in-laws for Christmas and to friends’ houses for the New Year. If you’re feeling guilty about celebrating Thanksgiving 2019 in this fashion, you can reassure yourself and others by reminding yourself why you want to have the talk in the first place. Below are six signs you may have noticed that led you to your decision.

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Escalating Care Needs

For many families, there is no sudden warning sign that senior care is necessary. Rather, indicators appear gradually.1 Your mother may miss her doctor’s appointment without calling first to cancel, something she has never done before. Your father may fail to take his heart medication several days in a row. You may notice that your elderly parent has lost weight and that his or her fridge is almost empty. Each of these signs may prompt you to take over small tasks, such as scheduling, medication management, grocery shopping, and cooking. What if it gets to the point where the one or two chores you took over later turn into several? Or what if you spend just as much time caring for your parent as you do yourself or your young children? These are signs it may be time to discuss assisted living.

Caregiver Stress

If your loved one’s escalating needs are causing you to feel stressed or even resentful toward your parent, it may have gotten to the point where more comprehensive care is necessary. Though it is natural to want to care for an elderly loved one, it should not interfere with your emotional health, relationships or life.

Aggression and Sundowning

Aggressive behavior toward loved ones and caregivers is one of the most common signs of dementia. Aggression is not healthy for anyone, and it may cause family members and caregivers to become angry or anxious. If the hostile behavior becomes more frequent, professional care may be necessary. If your loved one’s aggressive behavior only occurs in the evening hours, he or she may have sundowner’s syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by agitated behavior that becomes more pronounced later in the day. Like aggression, it is common in individuals who live with dementia.


In some stages of dementia, a person’s risk of wandering increases. Wandering can be dangerous both in and out of the home. Wandering increases your loved one’s risk of becoming lost when out in public. It could lead him or her into a dangerous situation. In the home, it increases his or her risk of falling and sustaining a serious or even life-threatening injury. If you notice that your loved one wanders from room to room without intention, it could be a sign of a more serious mental health issue and that it’s time for senior living.

Changes in Appearance

For many family members, one of the first indicators that an elderly parent may require more comprehensive care is changes in their appearance.2 If your mom or dad shows up to your Thanksgiving meal looking disheveled or wearing mismatched clothes, it may be time to question why that is. If your family gathers at the family home for the holidays, look for additional signs. Is the laundry done, folded and put away? Are there dishes in the sink that are not from the Thanksgiving feast? Are the surfaces clean, or are they grimy? These indicators may suggest your elderly loved one needs more help with activities of daily living (ADLs).

Mobility Issues

If your loved one wishes to remain in the family home, it is crucial that he or she can get around easily and without assistance. Otherwise, he or she is at risk of falling and sustaining an injury when no one is around to help with ambulation. If your parent struggles to climb the steps, needs help in and out of a chair, or can’t step over a small ledge without assistance, discuss the possibility of remodeling the home for their aging in place or transitioning them to an assisted living community. The holidays are a time for good cheer and celebration, and it’s understandable that the last thing you want to do is discuss the transition to senior living on turkey day. Yet, many families find that is the only time to do so. A Place For Mom senior living advisors have extensive experience with “the conversation” and can provide tips on how to best broach the topic on major national holidays.

Having the “Tough Conversation” Over Thanksgiving

Though it can be difficult, it’s important to consider having the tough conversation with a parent this Thanksgiving regarding their health and well-being.

Our experts can help guide you through these important discussions with your senior loved ones, which include topics like health, housing and finances:

  1. Assessing Cognitive Ability
  2. Assessing Well-Being
  3. Discussing Health With Aging Loved Ones
  4. Financial Planning
  5. Legal Planning

These guides also offer helpful tips on how to keep a tough conversation positive and productive with your parents.

Who to Contact If You Need Help

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone during this time. For additional information, including more from Joan Lunden on how to have the tough conversation with senior loved ones, visit our Planning & Advice pages.

We are also here to answer any questions you might have. If your loved one ultimately needs professional senior care, we can help provide you with a list of trusted assisted living communities that meet your family’s unique needs. We can also provide home care or respite stay services.

Have you had the “tough conversation” with your aging parents this holiday season? What was your conversation like? We’d like to hear your stories, and any tips you may have, in the comments below.

1Stevenson, S. (2019, June 24). How to Recognize Signs It’s Time for Assisted Living. Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2013-3-11-signs-its-time-for-assisted-living/.
2Barnett, J. (2019, August 15). 20 questions for deciding if it’s time to move your loved one to assisted living. Retrieved from https://www.consumeraffairs.com/health/time-for-assisted-living.html.

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Caitlin Burm
Caitlin Burm
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