‘Tis the Season for Seniors
Article By | Rhonda Watson, Director, Access and Marketing, Hospice Brazos Valley
It’s that time of year – Fall is transitioning into Winter! This semester is wrapping up, football season is well underway, and the holidays are just around the corner. Parties, tailgating, and family dinners are opportunities to reconnect, have fun, and spend time with the seniors in our life. Friends and family are often the first to see subtle or even drastic changes in the appearance or behavior of aging loved ones. Although it can be extra busy juggling work, the family schedule, and holiday planning, it really is a great time to “check in” with those we love, especially seniors.
Hospice Brazos Valley supports open and honest communication between family members regarding end-of-life. We have tools to start and guide the conversation in a way that’s informal and easy to follow. We’re also a resource when seeking services for a loved one needing hospice or palliative care. With this in mind, we offer the following list of areas to consider when gathering together this fall and winter with the seniors in your life.
When gathering together make note of how your elder loved one is communicating. Is she engaged in conversation or more withdrawn? Were they once the life of the party who now sit quietly in a corner? Are they having difficulty remembering people or places? A change in cognitive abilities sometimes presents itself as a loss of interest in activities that once brought laughter and joy.
Holiday meals are usually filled with family favorites and can be occasions to gauge how much and how often seniors eat. Has your aging family member lost weight? Are they not interested in food? Are they finding it challenging to feed themselves?
Whether dressing up for a formal dinner or casual holiday party, appearance can be a great indicator for how someone feels. This is no different for a senior. When you’re with your aging loved one, are they dressed appropriately for the occasion? Are buttons buttoned correctly? If you are spending multiple days together, have they changed clothes? Are other activities for daily living like combing hair and brushing teeth being completed?
Driving is a form of independence unlike any other. The ability to come and go as one pleases is a privilege, and safety comes first. Safety comes first not only for the driver, but for others on the road. Has your senior had any minor accidents? Is their vehicle inspection and registration up-to-date? Has their license expired? Have their eyes been checked recently?
Other areas of mobility include the aging person’s ability to ambulate throughout his or her home. This is important in the prevention of falls. Is he or she able to bathe or shower unassisted? Would a shower chair help? Would a walker or cane aid in stability and prevent a trip or fall?
Some seniors aren’t fond of doctors. Avoidance of “bad news” is a contributing factor. Even for seniors getting proper care and annual checkups, unless results are shared, you may be in the dark on health issues. Is it time to offer to go along on a doctor’s appointment? Are prescribed and over-the-counter medications being properly taken and adequately managed?
Although not always a popular topic, advance directives should be a part of everyone’s life plan. Holiday gatherings may prove to be an opportunity for family members to discuss the future, and ensure key family members understand end-of-life goals and wishes. As you take inventory of your life, are your advance directives complete? Are the senior members of the family open and transparent about what their end-of-life wishes are?
Grief and Bereavement
Although the holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year, for some it’s a reminder of what’s missing. Feelings of depression and anxiety can be a response to losing a spouse, child, sibling, or friend especially during periods of festivity. Be compassionate and sensitive when engaging in conversation. Sometimes the grieving party simply needs a listening ear. Hospice Brazos Valley provides programs to help manage the emotions and expectations that accompany grief.
Comfort is our Specialty. Trust is our Promise.