Senior man and female carer sitting together on sofa

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Benevolent Probing Helps Adults Inquire How Aging Parents Are Doing

Gilbert, Ariz. (Nov. 2, 2020) – The upcoming holiday season will be different because COVID-19 could affect in-person visits with aging loved ones. Adult children may be at a disadvantage in utilizing traditional extended family time to observe the cognitive and physical skills of their loved ones. Whether this year’s holiday celebrations are online or in-person, experts at SYNERGY HomeCare®, a leading national in-home care franchise, agree that a technique called “Benevolent Probing” can assist adult children in determining how their aging loved ones are doing.

“Longer visits with our aging loved ones during this time of year provide adult children with the opportunity to see if Mom or Dad have had cognitive and physical declines. This is why we usually see an inquiry spike throughout the holidays,” said Charlie Young, CEO of SYNERGY HomeCare. “But this year, the pandemic is forcing families to adjust traditional holiday events; therefore we shouldn’t neglect watching, listening and learning how our aging loved ones are doing. While it may be difficult, adult children should feel empowered to help our aging loved ones make decisions that will allow them to remain independent and live at home as they want.”

Young pointed to a recent a recent AARP survey found that 86% of those 65+ report they want to remain in their current residence for as long as possible.

“The upcoming holiday is a great opportunity to see how aging loved ones are doing,” said Ruth Busalacchi, a long-time SYNERGY HomeCare franchisee based in Milwaukee, Wisc. “Whether you visit in person or via video chat, the goal is to use what we call ‘Benevolent Probing’ to gain insight without appearing to threaten our loved one’s independence.”
Benevolent Probing is a combination of careful observation and considerate conversation that covers four key areas:

  1. Activities of Daily Living: Are your loved ones keeping up with their appearance, (i.e., shaving, haircut, clothing, hygiene)? How is their weight? If you are on a video call, ask for a short house tour to see what’s “new” or ask to see your favorite room in the home. Check to see if the home is more cluttered than usual. If you are visiting in person, check the refrigerator to get a sense of how well they are eating. Take a look at the expiration dates on the medicine bottles, too.
  2. Memory: Inquiring about current events is a great way to test their short-term memory. Are they engaged or protective? If they are brushing you off with answers like “Yes,” “Right,” or “Hmmm.” it may be an indication of some memory loss. You can also ask what they did last weekend or see how up to date they are on other family members.
  3. Mobility: How did they move about the house on that video tour? Are they grabbing onto furniture to steady themselves? Do you notice any bruising which may indicate a recent fall? If visiting in person, go on a walk with them to see if they tire easily or seem unbalanced. In addition, understanding their driving habits may be helpful. Have them take you on a drive to see if they lost confidence in their skills. Look at their car for any dings or scratches.
  4. Social Engagements: Isolation is often a gateway to depression, which can also negatively impact memory or activities of daily living. Ask about friends they are in touch with either in person or on the phone, as well as any regular activities or recent outings. Are there activities they have stopped doing? Are their things they wish they could do but don’t have a companion or a ride?

Busalacchi shares that if you notice your loved ones have declined in any of these areas, you should not wait for a crisis to take action.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean having an intervention in the moment,” she said. “You may want to consult with your siblings to see if they have noticed similar behaviors and begin researching homecare options in your area. Understanding your elders’ wishes can ensure that together you can map out a game plan that everyone is comfortable with.”

Unlike 20 years ago, aging in place is a greater option today than ever before. The continuum of in-home care is comprehensive. Whether a loved one needs a companion to help her stay active, more personal care such as assistance showering, or full-time support for a chronic condition, a personalized care plan is developed for each and every client to support aging in place.
Learn more about “Benevolent Probing” and the many home care options available at

With over 15 years of brand equity, SYNERGY HomeCare is one of the largest franchisors of in-home care services with approximately 170 franchisees operating in more than 365 franchise locations nationwide. The company provides a range of services including non-medical personal care, companion care, and specialized care for individuals who are physically or developmentally disabled, living with chronic health conditions or recovering from illness or surgery. SYNERGY HomeCare helps their clients achieve the highest quality of life and independence attainable. For more information visit

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Heather Reid
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