During holiday times, we plan to gather with family members we might see only once or twice a year. It’s an opportunity to connect with those we love—in a year when those connections have been very limited.
Especially this year, where older loved ones have had decreased mobility and social interaction, signs of aging might seem to have increased suddenly. Though you will not be able to gather at a big holiday celebration, it’s a good time to visit your loved one’s home and to look for subtle signs they might need more help or care.
Here are some issues you might find in the home:
- Safety hazards, such as steps and thresholds
- Signs of hoarding
- Lack of housekeeping or cleanliness
- Difficulty cooking or navigating the kitchen
- Need for bathroom modifications, such as a raised toilet seat or handrails
Some of these issues can be addressed by modifying the home, but some will require extra care by hiring an outside party or stepping in to do more caretaking work.
In addition to these physical issues, by spending time with an aging loved one, you might notice these other signs:
- They are wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather or time of day
- They neglect their medical needs or forget to take medication
- They show signs of forgetfulness and ask the same questions repeatedly
- They have personality changes or mood swings
- They no longer respond to loud noises
These concerns might be harder to address with a material solution, but you can offer emotional support. You can also:
- Make and attend doctor’s appointments regularly with your loved one
- Discuss bringing in outside help
- Make the necessary phone calls for your loved one: to insurance companies, to the doctor’s office, to caregivers
- Seek help from local agencies, such as the council on aging or other elder-care services in your area
It’s been a difficult year for everyone, but many of the elderly people in our communities and among our relatives have experienced the loneliness and isolation more acutely. There is evidence that social interaction has real physiological benefits like reduced blood pressure, and we all know what it can do for a person’s spirits.
This holiday season, I encourage you to interact with your elderly loved ones in a way that is safe in regards to stopping the spread of COVID-19, but especially to ensure their health and safety in the home.
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