The holidays are a special time for families with aging parents. They give us the opportunity to reconnect, to share old memories and favorite stories, and especially to allow our elders to bask in our love and affection.
But the holidays also allow us to get a closer look into the lives of our aging loved ones, so that we can help ensure their best possible quality of life in the years ahead. Here are a few of the most important things you can do as you celebrate the season with your favorite elder.
Safety First While Navigating The Holidays With Seniors
Make sure your elder has unobstructed paths throughout the house, especially between the bedroom and bathroom. Watch for and address slipping hazards on floors, in the shower or tub and so on. Invest in gifts like shower chairs and non-slip bath mats. See where grab bars or railings might be helpful. Install nighttime lighting. Make sure that all routinely used kitchen and closet items are within easy reach. Make sure steps and walkways are maintained to have a safe holiday with aging parents.
Keeping House While Navigating The Holidays With Seniors
If you want to know how your elder is coping with age, take a careful look around the house. Is everything as clean and tidy as usual? Is unopened mail sitting around, especially bills or notices from medical providers? Are the dishes done? Is the bed made? How about laundry? Are the pantry and refrigerator stocked? Have any of those items expired? Often, changes in these areas can indicate bigger issues, especially if your loved one has always been on top of household chores.
A Picture of Health
We all slow down as we age. But there are some signs to watch for that can tell you if your loved one’s health is declining. Here are three things to watch for:
• Weight Loss. If your elder lives alone or struggles with fatigue, it can be difficult to get to the store and to prepare healthy meals. Sometimes, just the thought of cleaning up afterward is enough to make them put off preparing a good meal. Some medications suppress appetite or make food taste different and a number of conditions, from depression or dementia to cancer, can reduce appetite. Whatever the reason, weight loss is often a red flag.
• Balance and Mobility. Difficulty or unsteadiness when walking or moving around can be a sign that something’s wrong, from joint pain to neurological problems. Falling is a significant risk for elders, especially as their bones weaken. Just as serious can be a fear of falling, which can lead to inactivity, increased frailty and a lack of social engagement.
• Mood and Behavior Changes. Noticeable shifts in behavior or mood can be a sign of anything from dehydration or urinary tract infection to cognitive decline. Ask about or watch for signs of anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping, loss of interest in favorite pastimes or social functions or decline in personal hygiene.
Your Role Navigating Holidays With Seniors
First of all, making your elder happy during the holidays should be a priority. Feelings of loss, loneliness or sadness often arrive with the season. Spend time doing things they love. Bring out old photos and reminisce about happy memories. Play favorite games. Arrange to connect with more distant family members and friends using simple video tools like Facetime and Zoom.
Offer to lend a hand around the house, especially for chores that are beyond your elder’s ability, like cleaning gutters or setting up a Christmas tree. Tackle necessary household tasks, but keep it lighthearted and fun. Schedule a weekend after the holidays to bring family together to take care of bigger maintenance needs, and make it a party. Stock up on favorite healthy foods. Find subtle ways to address safety issues. Give other family members gift ideas that can help Mom or Dad feel more safe, secure and connected — and spend time demonstrating how to use them.
Find out when upcoming doctors’ visits are scheduled, and try to have someone tag along. Listen closely to the doctor and ask good questions. Keep tabs on all medication being taken — prescription and over the counter — and make sure it’s all up to date. If you’ve seen signs of decline or have concerns, find a way to bring those up with the doctor.
Start an ongoing conversation about your loved one’s wishes for the long term. Help them visit friends in senior living environments so they can see the positives. Ask if they’ve ever considered hiring someone to help with boring chores like laundry, cooking or cleaning. Ease into these conversations, and listen. Gently dig into resistance to find out what fears or anxiety your elder may have. If they seem reluctant, wait until after the holidays to have this conversation.
Most of all, have fun. Make the holidays a favorite time for your loved one, so they’ll look forward to the next one and always put a “next thing” on the calendar so they have something to look forward to.
Contact Elder Care
ElderCare 4 Families is happy to help provide elder care to seniors you know wherever they call home. Complimentary assessments are offered with no obligation by Elder Care, Personalized care is offered from 1 hour up to 24//7. With over 39 years of elderly care experience in the Louisville and Southern Indiana area, trust Elder Care to care for the seniors in your life. Call us at 502-244-8446 to start receiving Eldercare services in Louisville.