Check in With Older Adults Over the Holidays? Here’s Why.

When you have a parent who is an older adult, gatherings during the holidays present a great opportunity to get a sense of how they’re doing, both physically and emotionally. You might notice that things aren’t quite what they should be; there may be signs of decline. Questions come to mind, like: Has dad lost weight and become more reserved? Is mom’s eyesight failing which could lead to a fall?

At the start of every new year, we receive many inquiries for skilled nursing from adult children who’ve noticed signs of decline in their parents, especially after a holiday visit. During these pandemic times, however, holiday visits with older adults are generally discouraged, with the result that we might be deprived of having an important vantage point.  With essential social distancing measures in place, how can you “check in” with an older adult relative while still honoring his or her privacy and dignity?

Here, we offer some important tips to keep in mind as you connect, virtually or in-person, over the coming weeks:

  • Be supportive: When Zooming, Face Timing or having a socially distant visit, ask your loved one, “If you had a wish list, what type of help would you like?” By framing help in a positive way, your loved one will be more forthcoming about challenges and receptive to help. If your family member is resistant; don’t push it. You’ve planted the seed and can revisit the topic again in the near future.
  • Be collaborative: Once you know what type of help your loved one needs, work together to create a plan. When you empower your family members to have control over their own care, they’ll retain a sense of independence, which is essential for well-being.
  • Key into signs: Changes in hygiene or housekeeping are often indicators that an older adult is experiencing decline. Does your previously fastidious parent suddenly appear disheveled? Does your parent’s home appear messy? Mood changes are also an important symptom of potential decline. If you’re monitoring your loved one’s finances, you can also check whether bills are being paid on time.
  • Do your research: Once you’ve determined the type of care your loved one will benefit from, do some research so that you can provide support quickly. In addition to word of mouth, Leading Age offers an Aging Services Directory, and U.S. News & World Report offers its list of Best Nursing Homes each year.
  • Don’t delay: The health pandemic has made people wary of seeking out essential care. But, waiting could lead to serious health issues or injuries that could be dangerous. Instead, make sure that any facility you’re considering is transparent about its health and safety protocols, and that communication is frequent.

In addition to these strategies, the team at The Nathaniel Witherell is a resource for caregivers on making the decision about skilled nursing.  Call us at (203) 618-4200 for help and support for all your senior care needs.




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