Making the Holidays Bright for Your Elderly Loved Ones

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Visiting for the Holidays

Christmas is a time of year to spend time with family, including elderly relatives that are not seen regularly throughout the year. Think about these four things when visiting or entertaining your elderly loved ones this year.

Is their environment safe?

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths for adults 65 and older, and hundreds of thousands more adults are left disabled or seriously injured by falls every year. Here are some easy steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of falling:

  • Look for trip hazards like power cords, small rugs, clutter, and furniture.
    • Rugs should be secured to the floor.
    • Furniture should be arranged or removed so that there is a clear walking path through every room.
  • Add non-slip mats and appliques to bathrooms and showers, and consider installing grab bars near the toilet, shower, and bath.
  • Check lighting, particularly in hallways, stairwells, or anywhere there is a transition in flooring. As we age it becomes more difficult to see in low lighting, so what may seem dim but adequate to you, may not be enough for someone older.
  • Make sure your loved one has access to a portable phone and/or emergency call button.

Click here for a more extensive checklist of fall risks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How is their mental health?

Loneliness and social isolation are major issues for older adults leading to poor health outcomes. If you find out that they are no longer leaving their house or socializing with others as much as they used to, try to find out why. There could be a wide variety of reasons, including:

  • Having nowhere to go or no one to see
  • Experiencing issues with hearing, vision or incontinence
  • Lack of transportation

There are many mental health challenges that older adults face, but early warnings of memory impairment can be important to watch out for so that other, more treatable conditions can be ruled out and safety measures can be put in place. If you suspect that your loved one might be showing signs of memory changes, contact their physician about your concerns.

Do they have legal documents in order?

Since the holidays often bring families together, it is the perfect time to discuss end-of-life wishes and get paperwork in order.

Every adult should have a Health Care Power of Attorney so that in the event of a serious accident or illness, someone they trust is designated to make decisions for them. It is also important to discuss with their designated Health Care Power of Attorney their treatment preferences and priorities and document those preferences in an Advance Directive, also known as a Living Will.

The Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum has a number of easy-to-use resources on their website to help you learn more about this topic, have these conversations and complete the paperwork. Click here for the “Conversations Change Lives Guidebook.”

How are the caregivers doing?

The workload of being the primary caregiver to a loved one who needs 24/7 supervision and support can take a significant toll on the caregiver’s health.

Family caregiving has been associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety as well as higher use of psychoactive medications, poor self-reported physical health, compromised immune function and increased mortality.

Many people do not realize that there are options available for respite services. For caregivers who need just a couple days, or a few hours to leave the house, private sitters are a great option. Click here for information.

For longer periods of time, nursing homes such as Ollie Steele Burden Manor and St. Clare Manor offer respite stays. Caregivers can have a couple weeks to recover from their own medical issues, or go away on vacation without the worry of leaving their loved one at home. Contact Ollie Steele Burden Manor at 225-926-0091 for more information.

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