Gathering with our older family members is many people’s favorite part of the holidays, especially after a year filled with so much uncertainty and isolation. While we are all being advised to avoid large family gatherings during the holidays this year, we know that many families will still be finding ways to enjoy this joyous season together. However, it can be a bittersweet experience if you haven’t seen family in a while.
Being together may lead you to notice changes in the senior adult’s health, ability or behavior. It’s common for adult children and grandchildren to go through a grieving process, realizing the senior can no longer perform certain tasks or behave the same way. It can be difficult to realize that someone else might need to carve the turkey this year, or realize that Grandpa can’t play with the grandchildren for nearly as long as he used to.
While these changes can be unsettling, there are other changes to watch out for when you are together that can help you to ensure your relative has the right level of care going into the New Year.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that the plan for senior care is ultimately up to the senior adult and the closest next of kin; however, it’s good for family members to be aware of changes and have a discussion with the senior adult and other family members regarding possible changes and plans moving forward.
Most senior adults don’t tend to speak up and ask for more help or in-home care in their lives. They often want to maintain their independence for as long as possible. In fact, they may even try to pretend things are better than they are to avoid the conversation—mostly because they may be thinking of nursing homes and other situations in which they completely lose their independence.
They may not realize there are a wide variety of in-home care plans to meet many different levels of needs. This can be part of the discussion. But prior to that conversation, let’s take a look at the top things to look for when spending the holidays with an elderly family member:
It is common for senior adults to lose some body fat and look more drained as they age. However, abrupt weight loss is a reason for concern. A drastic change in weight could point to a lack of nutrition in their eating habits, a decrease in appetite that may be a sign of an illness, physical issues that preclude them from cooking for themselves as they used to, or forgetfulness that leads to skipping meals.
As you gather together for the holidays, observe whether or not your loved one is able to feed him or herself and chooses a wide variety of foods. Check to see how much food they consume throughout the day, and take some time to inquire about eating and cooking habits during your conversations.
Is the grandma who never had a hair out of place, showing up for the holiday gathering looking disheveled and unkempt? Are your older family member’s clothes dirty or does he look as if he hasn’t showered or combed his hair in days? Being unable to take care of basic personal hygiene is a sign that they may need help. Having more difficulty with personal hygiene can be a sign of forgetfulness, arthritis pain, or motor skill loss. Often, by watching them during your holiday gathering, you can assess the situation and identify what might be leading to this decline.
When you are with to your loved one, be sure to take a closer look to see if there are signs of injury, such as burns, cuts or excessive bruising that may point to falls and accidents at home. Often, senior adults will hide falls and other accidents that may be happening when they are home alone to avoid causing others to worry, so gently asking about injuries may help them to open up about the situation. Perhaps they need assistance through accessibility devices like a cane, walker or wheelchair.
Does the senior adult seem to have a good handle on his or her medication situation? Are the medications organized? Are the prescriptions current or outdated? These are questions to ask as you are with them for the holidays. Not taking the correct medications or not taking them as prescribed can lead to grave consequences, so it’s important to check in on them at this time to ensure he is still able to manage them on his own.
As you take the time to assess the situation when you spend the holidays with an elderly family member, keep in mind you can get the support and services you need at Celestial Care. Whether your loved one would benefit from a few visits a week from an in-home nurse or more regular nursing care, our team of home health care experts is here to help you create the ideal customized plan.
Connect with us online now for an initial consultation or call 602.375.8880 with any questions you may have.