It’s that time of the season. It’s the time when families large and small get together to eat and talk about the things that are happening in their lives. The kids talk about the new friends they met at school, maybe a new game they learned how to play. Parents of those kids are probably talking about their new home, a job or even the economy. Whatever it is, the holidays are a special time to celebrate with family.
If you plan on taking the family to visit elderly loved ones or you're having them over for your holiday dinner, make it a great experience.
Plan your holiday family get together and keep these tips in mind to ensure your older loved ones feel special and know that you care about them.
Make It All About Them
Depression, among senior, ranks high. Depression during the holidays can be common, especially if they recently lost a significant loved one or had a health change. According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Depression in elderly people often goes untreated because many people think that depression is a normal part of aging”. Depression can contribute to loss of appetite and weight loss. Make sure your loved ones aren't showing signs of any unusual sadness or have anxiety during the holidays.
Look for Changes in Balance and Mobility
Watch your loved one when they walk, sit down and get out of chairs. Look for signs of pain or even being unbalanced or uncoordinated. If they are unsteady on their feet, they may be a fall risk. If you see changes, suggest an appointment with their doctor. Falls are the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among other adults.
Visiting Their Home
If you plan on visiting your senior loved ones this holiday, you should take notice of the condition of the home. Look for safety concerns like loose carpeting and overloading electrical outlets to name a couple. Some other key items to consider is cleanliness, organization, “unusual” odors, clean laundry or is it piling up. If they have an office, discreetly check to see if there is an abundance of unopened mail. Don’t snoop around. But if you see a collection agency letter, make a note. When you’re in the kitchen look for signs of forgetfulness in scorched cookware or burn marks on top of the range or in the oven. Look at expiration dates on food. Collect any necessary information while you’re in town. Local resources that might be available to assist. These may be signs that they are no longer able to safely live at home by themselves.
Keeping it Light
It’s the holidays, be upbeat and happy. If you see signs of concerns, don’t out your loved one right there. Bring it up in casual conversation over the phone a week later… and not all at once! Have that heart-to-heart conversation with your loved one about what you observed and of your concerns. When it comes to talking to a senior, the biggest fear they have is losing their independence.
Make a To-Do List
This is the first step in making a plan. It may be best to begin with a visit to the primary care physician. Follow up enough with your loved ones to show that you care and don’t overwhelm them. Let them work at their pace, but gently guide them in the importance of things. Maybe it’s time to discuss with close family members who could be the primary family caregiver point of contact.
ITEMS TO HAVE IN PLACE:
- Medical Power of Attorney (you designate someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf)
- Durable Power of Attorney (you designate someone to make financial / legal decisions on your behalf)
- Living Will / Trust – if you have assets you should have this type of document in place to avoid probate
- Emergency contacts to reach elderly loved one if you live far from them
- Access to see their bank statements – to keep a watchful eye on fraud/abuse