The holiday season is marked with joy, festivity and time spent with family and friends. For many families across the country, it is one of the only times that they may get to see one another during the busy year. While distance may make the heart grow fonder, it also makes it harder for family members to keep an eye on the health and wellbeing of elderly family members.
At Aviva – A Campus for Senior Life, our Senior Living team deals heavily with kids and grandkids who are caught off-guard when their elderly loved ones begin to show signs of potential health concerns. It is never too early to start planning for your senior’s move into a senior community. Here are 10 signs to look out for when visiting for the holidays that will help you know if it is time to have the talk.
- Check the Mail– Listen, we all have those weeks when life gets in the way of doing normal household tasks like checking the mail and bringing in the newspaper. However, if you are visiting your senior and notice their mailbox filled with weeks’ worth of mail or piles of unopened newspapers, it may be a sign of memory loss or difficulty physically getting the mail.
- What’s in the Fridge – Eating well and keeping a well-stocked fridge are important aspects of living a healthy lifestyle. If you are checking on a college-age family member it is no surprise to find microwave ready noodles or tons of leftover containers. However, if an elderly relative seems to have little to no food in their fridge or if the food they do have is well past its expiration date this may be a sign that they are struggling to care for themselves independently. Make sure to check the pantry as well.
- Bills – As every adult learns, living independently comes with dreaded bills to pay. While we all wish we could close our eyes and make our bills vanish, the reality is that they ensure we have a roof over our head and the lights are kept on. If you find large numbers of overdue bills or even bills that are simply lying around unopened, take a moment to ask about them.
- Laundry – Another dreaded household chore, laundry or lack there of is a strong indicator of a person’s wellbeing. Look to see if there are piles of dirty laundry that are unusual and inconsistent with your senior. A lack of any laundry may also be a sign that a person is wearing the same clothes over and over again. In that case, take a look at the clothes your loved one is choosing to wear; check for holes, tearing, stains, or excessive dirt.
- Living Conditions – The final area of the house to check is actually all around you. Again, remember you are visiting an elderly relative and not your 20-year-old child. Does the house itself appear to be clean and in order? Are there dirty dishes or garbage piling up in places? Are there broken pieces of furniture, burned out light bulbs or nonfunctioning household appliances that have yet to be fixed? Remember to compare everything to the house you grew up in or even just your memory of 5 years prior. What has changed and why?
- Hobbies – Once you have checked out the condition of the living areas it is time to focus on what you talk about with your family member. Do they have a hobby that they have always loved that seems to be missing in their life? Have they stopped going fishing, playing cards, exercising, or participating in other active hobbies? If they have, it is important to understand the reason why.
- Friends – Everyone loves to talk about the exciting news in their lives and share the details of their friends and community. When visiting a loved one, always make sure to ask about who they are spending time with and what things they do with their friends. The goal is not to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but if a person is suddenly choosing to isolate themselves it may be a sign of more serious health concerns.
- Get Moving – The holiday season is one to spend not only together around good food and great company, but a time to venture out into the community. Many families will take time for religious services, acts of charity, or enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds of the holidays. When you are out and about with your elderly loved one pay close attention to how they move around. Mobility issues and the risk of falling are incredibly dangerous to seniors and are the largest cause of hospitalization. Even if your relative uses assistive tools like a cane or walker, they still may show signs of increased difficulty.
- Health and Medicine – One of the biggest difficulties’ seniors deal with is their overall health and medication management needs. Spend time talking with your loved one about how they are physically feeling. No one feels perfectly healthy all the time, but if you notice they are hesitant to talk about their health or if they have had a sudden spike in health concerns, it may be time to talk to them about health intervention. On that same note, if you notice an abundance of new medications, expired medications, or untouched medications, then it may be important to investigate medication management.
- Overall Wellbeing – At the end of the day, we know our family members better than anyone and usually can tell quickly if something is wrong. When you spend time with your loved one pay close attention to their behavior and mood. Have they lost weight or seem confused? Do they seem withdrawn, trying to isolate themselves or quick to anger? Do they show the same emotion or excitement for the things they once did? When dealing with an elderly relative any noticeable change may just scratch the surface of someone who really needs assistance.
While these elements seem simple in nature, when they begin to happen simultaneously it may be a sign of a larger problem at work. When looking for these signs take special care to be respectful and to approach the situation with love and compassion. Remember, your senior has led and cared for your entire family for generations and will be hesitant to see their role begin to change. They will find ways to cope or mask the problems they are facing, afraid to be a burden on you or the family. It is never too early to start having these conversations, but with careful planning you can ensure that your senior can develop a plan for the future that they believe in.
About Aviva – A Campus for Senior Life
Founded in 1993, Aviva – A Campus for Senior is Sarasota’s only senior living campus which offers all levels of living on a rental basis including independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, and rehabilitation. Our location in The Meadows community provides our campus with true Florida natural beauty while making it easy to access all of the arts, culture, and entertainment of downtown Sarasota. As a Jewish faith-based community and not-for-profit organization, we are proud that our deeply rooted values provide residents of all faiths the ability to live life to the fullest and to experience a world of new possibilities. Come see what makes Aviva a one of a kind community, all that’s missing is you! Call 941-225-8369 or visit avivaseniorlife.org to schedule a tour today.