The best things about Christmas are the celebration and bringing families together, as well as the festive food and other trimmings. It’s a time to congratulate yourself on getting through a long list of things to do. And it’s also a great opportunity for you to see exactly how your ageing parents or other loved ones are travelling.
This Christmas, as you and your family get together, make the most of the time to subtly evaluate if your parents or older relatives might need some additional help to continue living in the home they love. Here’s a checklist of things to look out for.
- Furniture surfing: Are your parents or loved ones using the furniture to make their way around the lounge room? See if they look like they’re shuffling more, shaky on their feet, tripping on rugs or furniture surfing.
- Neglecting personal hygiene: Are you seeing any tell-tale spill spots on shirts and tops? Are they doing the washing or is there a pile in the laundry? Hair not combed as usual? Have they had a shower today? Has your father shaved? Do their feet appear in good condition? Elderly people often struggle to reach their feet, so taking note of this will help you understand their hygiene capabilities. Keeping up with hygiene requirements is something people forget they can get help with.
- Loss of strength: Do they appear to be struggling with opening jars and packaging or car doors or simply just lifting the kettle. Are movements looking a bit shaky?
- Food preparation and Cleaning: What’s on the menu at their place – are they still cooking for themselves or relying on takeaway and pre-prepared foods? Check the expiry dates of food in the fridge and pantry. They may need prepared meals delivered to them. Do they need someone to help lift the groceries? Do they do the dishes properly or have you found half-cleaned dishes in the kitchen cupboards? Some elderly people don’t realise they aren’t cleaning as thoroughly as they use to.
- Mixing up names: This is a big tell-tale. Are you hearing them address you by the wrong name? Maybe they’re repeating one prominent name for everyone? Did you correct them but they have already forgotten?
- Yard maintenance: Does the garden look as well-watered and maintained as usual? Are weeds taking over the flowerbeds? Look for wilting or overgrown bushes and lawns to gauge the mobility and memory of your loved ones. Sometimes they might need a little extra help in the garden, even if it’s only companionship while they garden or a bit the heavy-lifting.
- Driving: Are they driving as usual or taking the bus more? If they’re still driving, find an excuse to be their passenger and check if they have trouble accelerating or showing signs of pedal confusion? Do they use their indicator? Are they wary of stop signs? Are you having to remind them to put their seatbelt on? Ask about any dents of scratches on their car. You can also check on local services to help them getting around without having to get behind the wheel. Some local councils offer a volunteer transport service for seniors. Further information is available for seniors who drive.
- Social interaction: Are they keeping up with the Christmas conversation or withdrawn or confused? Are they repeating conversations or stories that they’ve already told you – more than usual?
- Hobbies: Are they keeping up with hobbies they’ve always enjoyed, such as reading the newspaper or books? Knitting or listening to music? Are they still going to their gardening club?
- Home admin: Are they forgetting how to use the computer if they knew before? Does using technology – including mobile phones – confuse them more? Is their mail no longer sorted or stored neatly? Are they hanging on to old newspapers or magazines for no reason?
If you can identify a few of the points above with your loved ones or if others in the family can see issues, then in-home help could be a great solution to give you piece of mind.
While you’re together over Christmas, have a gentle conversation with your family and loved ones on how they want to continue living in their home with a little help. Find out what they are comfortable with and what level of independence they want.
Some conversation starters could include: “What would you like to have more help with?” “Do you have any worries or concerns about looking after the house?” or even: “If and when it’s time to hang up your car keys, have you thought about other changes you might need to make?”
Explain that having help will enable them to retain their freedom, interests and lifestyle. And if you think your parents or other loved ones could do with some help, Five.Good.Friends. are here to help. Call 1300 787 581 or click on Contact Us.
Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at Five.Good.Friends.