Don’t just be there. BE THERE.
Family gatherings are at the heart of most people’s holiday traditions. We may arrive wearing that distinctive reindeer sweater Mee Maw lovingly knitted. Check. We may take a deep breath before crossing the thresh hold, mentally preparing ourselves to smile politely at a cousin’s misguided attempts at humor. Check. We may have the mandatory green bean casserole safely in hand. Check. But there are more important considerations for that holiday visit with a beloved older adult. When we have aging loved ones, it is important to not simply show up. We have a responsibility to keep our eyes and ears—and hearts—open. To be there in an intentional and proactive way. A family celebration is a good excuse to do a quick reconnaissance mission and get a feel for how well that older family member is truly faring. Below are a few quick tips. Why not use our Senior Holiday Check-In Checklist?
A Senior Holiday Check-In Checklist:
- Check Food Expiration Dates One quick way to get an idea of how well a senior adult is handling the challenges of living alone is a peek into the refrigerator or pantry. Is there a good selection of food? Are there obvious outdated items? Those expiration dates can be difficult for aging eyes to read. Taste and smell decline with normal aging, so an elderly person may be less likely to recognize that a food has spoiled. Penny-pinching can be carried to an extreme. It’s not thrifty if it makes you sick! An extra pair of eyes can help avoid inadvertent bad choices.
- Look at Medication Schedules Seniors, especially those with some short term memory loss, can struggle with taking medications properly. Seniors often have many different prescriptions, and those prescriptions can be changed frequently by physicians. Changing eyesight can make a pale yellow pill look very much like a white pill. See if your loved one is taking advantage of helps like a pillbox or checklist. Look to see if the number of pills in a bottle agrees with the date on the prescription label. Perhaps having someone to help your loved one with medication reminders would be good for that loved one’s health, as well as for your peace of mind.
- Consider Home Cleanliness No, there is no need to do a “white glove test” or crawl under furniture. But do the kitchen and bathrooms look sanitary? Is there general clutter that makes good housekeeping difficult to maintain? What areas might the senior be struggling to keep up? Are there some more strenuous jobs like vacuuming floors or changing linens that could be done by a home helper?
- Make Use of a Home Safety Checklist A senior may easily overlook safety issues, just because he or she has become accustomed to a situation. No matter how pretty, throw rugs cause falls. Too much furniture can make moving around the home a battle for someone using a walker. The absence of grab bars or a shower chair or a nonskid bath mat can contribute to the risk of injury. Home Instead offers more comprenesive tools to help you know what to look for here.
- Gauge Loneliness Especially if you don’t get to enjoy a personal visit very often, use the holiday gathering as an opportunity to gauge your loved one’s state of mind. Does he or she seem sad or lonely? Ask pointed questions in an easy conversational setting to find out whether the senior adult in your life has been staying engaged socially. Watch for body language and other cues (changing the subject, evading direct answers) that may not be as obvious during a phone conversation. Having a companion to encourage the senior to stay active may be just what is needed.
Of course enjoying your relationship with your senior loved one, not an inspection, is the real purpose of a holiday visit. But exerting a little proactive effort now may help you keep that loved one safer and help them enjoy a better quality of life for many holiday seasons to come. Although it is not designed to be a comprehensive evaluation, our Senior Holiday Check-In Checklist can be a valuable tool. If you notice worrisome challenges, a companion home helper maybe be the perfect fit for your loved one when you cannot be there personally. A compassionate CAREGiver can help resolve every concern that this checklist reveals. Find out more about how Home Instead can help your loved one—and you—here, or call us at 225-813-8338 for a free in-home consultation. And meanwhile, enjoy this precious holiday season!