Today is Thanksgiving and some families are gathering together, face to face, for the first time in many months. The general press talks about how large a role family dynamics — or dysfunction — can play in these get-togethers. The holidays are also a time to witness change in an aging loved one. A physical or mental decline that was not so clear in photographs or telephone calls can be seen firsthand. An adult child who has lived near an aging parent may have faithfully described the change to a distant sibling who now sees and understands it for the first time. Or a fresh eye can see the cumulative change of many months that has escaped someone who has lived with it day to day. For some family members, the change and all that it suggests for the future can be difficult to bear. Some will react with denial, some with fear or sadness.
Most helpful, but sometimes most difficult, is to candidly and carefully consider what these changes mean for that loved one’s emotional and physical well-being and what they will mean for the family as a whole. Those conversations can be challenging, but essential.