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Holidays with senior loved ones – was anything amiss?

The holidays are often times to gather with the whole family, including seniors we may not see often if we live in different cities. If you spent any of your holidays with senior loved ones, did you notice anything amiss? Now is a good time to remember the holidays and make sure your loved ones have a happy and healthy New Year.

  1. If Mom is older but still lives on her own, compare what you saw to the previous visit. Signs of slowing down are to be expected, but safety and health concerns should be addressed. It’s possible that managing alone is becoming difficult. Or perhaps a few practical adjustments – moving a bedroom downstairs, installing better lighting, hiring some help – may be all that’s needed.
  2. Was your loved one actively engaged in the conversation, moving around and generally enjoying the company? Noticeable withdrawal from participation could be a warning sign, but it could also be hearing loss, or simply fatigue from all the holiday activity.
  3. Things we take for granted for decades become more important issues as we age. Is your aging father still driving? Is that a good idea? Giving up one’s driver’s license was once a signal event of loss of independence. These days there are many inexpensive alternatives.
  4. What about health? Typical age-related illnesses are common, but don’t assume that your loved one is “just getting old.” Unusual weight loss or pain, poor balance, excessive coughing and many other symptoms can be signs of serious conditions. Do your senior loved ones have regular access to healthcare? Are they using it? Do they have adequate medication, updated devices like glasses and dentures, and a clear understanding of their medical condition?
  5. Was there enough food in the house, or unpaid bills? Seniors living on fixed incomes may have financial troubles. One financial hit like a new water heater or medical expense can tip the balance.
  6. Were there any signs of abuse: mental, emotional or physical? Seniors can be abused and/or scammed by spouses, caregivers, workmen, new “best friends,” neighbors, institutional staff and family members. Follow up if you are at all concerned.
  7. Finally, more than 20% of seniors (37% living in nursing homes) suffer from depression and/or loneliness. This may require professional treatment, but company, engagement, and inclusion go a long way toward keeping seniors active and healthy.

If you are the concerned family member of an older adult, JFCS Senior Services is here to help. We have counselors and other staff specifically focused on senior issues. They will conduct a home assessment, offer counseling, refer to local resources, and help you find homecare, transportation and more. We believe in independence and self-determination for seniors, and we also understand family concerns for safety and well-being. Call JFCS Senior Services at 412-422-0400, or visit our website.