If you have a senior loved one in your family whom you see infrequently, consider spending some time with him or her this holiday season. This time of year is perfect for gathering with the people we care about and celebrating time-honored traditions (not to mention eating some delicious food). It’s also a good opportunity for you to observe your senior family member’s health and abilities.
“We don’t like to think about our loved ones growing older and needing assistance,” says Angel Van Horn, Community Relations Specialist at Park Manor, the most trusted retirement community in Nashville, TN. “However, ignoring the situation can cause even more issues down the road. The holidays are an excellent opportunity for you to observe your senior loved in one person and determine if their health and living situation require decisions to be made.”
Besides observing your senior loved one, there are several other reasons why spending the holidays with aging adults is rewarding.
Gauging Health & Abilities
The first and most obvious reason to visit your loved one is, as we’ve mentioned, looking for warning signs that extra help is needed in order for your senior to live as safely and independently as possible. Here are some warning signs to look out for:
- Weight loss. If your loved one is looking frail and thinner than you remember, there could be a slew of issues at play. Health issues, depression or dementia are some of the most common. Your loved one could be forgetting to eat, is unable to eat because it’s too much work to prepare meals or their medications could be causing issues.
- Changes in mobility. Is your loved one struggling to move from place to place? Is he or she unsteady and needing help walking? Mobility and balance issues put seniors at the risk of falling and could be from a variety of issues, including pain or neurological problems.
- Emotional state and well-being. Are your senior’s behaviors or mood changing? Anxiety, anger, agitation and changes in their sleep patterns could be a sign of depression or the beginnings of dementia. It could also be from medical issues such as a urinary tract infection (UTI). If your loved one is acting differently, it’s important to find out the root cause.
- Living situation and environment. Signs of changes in the home situation, such as clutter when your loved one has always been tidy, could indicate a problem. You more than anyone know your loved one’s habits and behaviors best, so listen to your gut and be sure to speak up if something seems off.
Improving Quality of Life
Being socially connected and engaged with people we care about are huge factors in helping seniors remain emotionally and mentally healthy as they age. Without these moments, seniors are at risk of becoming lonely, isolated and depressed, and can develop a number of health risks, including:
- Increased mortality
- Higher blood pressure
- Elder abuse
- Increased risk of long-term illnesses
As humans, we’re wired to socialize and interact, but as we age, it becomes more difficult for us to keep those circles of community together. That’s why the holidays are a prime time to help keep isolation at bay and perhaps reconnect with those we care about.
Learning and Sharing Family History
Our senior loved ones are links to our past. When we’re younger, we may not be as interested in their stories and retellings of events. But as we get older, learning about our families and putting together our histories can strengthen family ties, unite family members and allow you to learn important facts. If you’re visiting a senior loved one this holiday season, consider setting aside some time to record their knowledge whether through video, audio or simply writing down important information. This can be everything from family history and personal history, to information about medical issues, and so much more. Here are some ways to begin the conversation:
- Do you have family heirlooms that have been passed down through generations? Ask your loved one to tell you their stories. Write down the information, store it on a flash drive and (like for a dresser or other piece of furniture) write it on a 3×5 and keep it with the item.
- Have a list of open-ended questions (StoryCorps.org is a great source of inspiration) to prompt memories and encourage discussion.
- Pull out some old family photo albums and go through them with your loved one. Ask them about the people in the photos, what was happening when the photo was taken and other pertinent information.
Planning for the Future
Even if your loved one is healthy and independent, it’s important to discuss next steps for their health and finances. The holidays are a good time to talk with seniors about their wills, health directives and financial information so that all important parties understand your loved one’s wishes and what needs to happen. If your senior hasn’t yet put together a will or worked with a financial advisor, consider shopping around for some providers at this point and help them begin the conversation. Although it’s not the most pleasant of topics to discuss, the sad truth is that all of us will pass away at some point, and the greatest gift you can give your descendants is a clear picture of what your wishes are.
No matter what your senior loved one’s situation may be, planning a visit this holiday season will help strengthen your relationships and create meaningful memories that will last a lifetime. You may even be able to pick up or begin new holiday traditions that you can continue with your children, spouse or siblings. Be sure that, no matter what you do, to take pictures and enjoy the moments together.
Love Where You Live!
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Do I love where I live?” If you ask that question of the residents of Park Manor, Nashville’s premier retirement community, the answer would be a resounding, “Yes!” For over 50 years, Park Manor has served Nashville’s seniors by providing a community designed to support an active, independent, secure, healthy and worry-free lifestyle. Located on seven spacious acres in the desirable Nashville neighborhood Belle Meade, we’re proud to provide a lifestyle our residents love each and every day.
Park Manor’s approach to senior living is simple: exceed our residents’ expectations. We strive to provide everything you could possibly need and want to live your life the way you choose. At Park Manor, you will enjoy a standard of living reminiscent of a luxury resort – but it’s not a vacation – it’s your lifestyle! This commitment is why we are held in such high regard by our surrounding community and are known as the premier retirement community offering Independent Living and Assisted Living lifestyles.
For seniors requiring memory care, Park Manor is associated with the prestigious Abe’s Garden® Memory Care Center of Excellence. Abe’s Garden® is committed to transforming the care of those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by establishing a national model of residential living and day care programs for those suffering from the disease. Abe’s Garden® provides an unprecedented level of care in addition to a comprehensive array of services and lifestyle options.
At Park Manor, your continued independence is our top priority. Enjoy living life as you choose … in the comfort and privacy of your own apartment, while having the peace of mind of knowing help is available if and when you need it.
For more information, please call 615.997.3030.