With the holidays quickly approaching, consider using your extended time wisely with family. We don’t mean catching up on work emails during visits with your aging relatives. Use this quality time to take stock of aging loved ones’ health, safety and wellbeing.
Daily Activities of Living
You can observe aging relatives’ health, safety and wellbeing by thinking in terms of the daily activities of living that we all engage in such as bathing, dressing, eating, and transferring (moving from sitting to standing, walking or getting in and out of a wheelchair, bed or car, or getting on and off a toilet seat). With each passing year, daily activities of living can get more challenging.
Listen, Share and Observe
Listen to your aging relatives, share your thoughts with them and observe them closely so you can get a thorough understanding of what realms they may experience difficulties. They may not even recognize their need for help. As an outsider looking in, you may quickly recognize their needs. They may even deny their needs or not want to “burden” you.
What You Can Do
Some things you can do when you’re in aging relatives’ homes:
- Check the refrigerator. Is there adequate and nutritious food available? Is it expired?
- Check the bathrooms. Are they clean? Might they benefit from handrails, a rubber mat, a walk-in shower or a raised toilet seat? Is there adequate soap and bath tissue? Could they use a cleaning service to help them do a more thorough cleaning?
- Examine their car. Are there any new scrapes, dings or dents indicating trouble with driving or seeing? Might they need a new prescription for glasses? Might driving pose a danger to them or others?
- Are their floors clear of clutter and tripping hazards?
- Are everyday items easy to reach without having to use a step-stool or ladder?
- How do your aging loved ones look? Do they appear well-rested? Are their clothes clean? Have they showered or bathed and maintained consistent hygiene?
These are just some of the things to take note of as you interact with your aging relatives in their homes.
Use Caution: Refrain from Religion, Politics and Moving
It’s important to use your best judgement and proceed with caution when observing aging loved ones’ health, safety and wellness. The holidays aren’t always the best time to suggest making major changes.
During the holidays, it’s best to steer clear of potential stressors such as the need to move out of the home, the need to stop driving, one’s religious preferences or political issues of the day. Instead, take time to gently and build awareness of potential needs but most importantly, tune in, listen and enjoy your time together.
You Identified Some Issues…Now What?!
Once the dust has settled, consider engaging your aging relatives in a conversation about your concerns. Vocalize your thoughts and invite them to share theirs. Listen deeply and use empathy. If together, you cannot address your concerns or improve their safety, health and wellbeing, ask their permission to reach out to a professional or their healthcare provider for his or her input and assessment.
Most importantly, work with your loved ones and make them part of the process. This will give them buy-in and the respect they deserve. When people feel valued, they are more likely to agree.