With the holidays approaching, this time of year gives many of us a good opportunity to check in with the seniors in our lives. This could be parents or grandparents, but also elderly aunts, uncles, other relatives, and the seniors we come in contact with through church or other civic activities. Holidays and—probably even more so—the change in weather can lead to difficulties for these individuals.
You know these folks, some of them are literally your folks, while others you know from other activities; and none of them will reach out or let you know if they need help. Many of them don't want to be a burden on those around them, while some refuse to admit they actually need help. Or, if they break down and ask for it, that will mean admitting they aren't as independent as they want to believe. Regardless of the reason, this means you need to be proactive about seeking these people out and doing some "investigation".
The key to really checking in on them is visiting them in their homes. It's too easy for them to mask, hide, or straight-up lie when you just ask them. This also causes problems because an interrogation can lead to a lot of defensiveness, not the result anyone wants! By visiting them, you can see with your own eyes how they are managing their day to day:
- Is there food in the fridge/pantry? Do they have a way to get groceries?
- Is the sink overflowing with dishes? Does the garbage need to go out? Other housekeeping issues?
- Do they have clean clothes in good repair? Do they have access to laundry facilities?
- Are there obvious repairs that need to be made to the home? Anything dangerous?
- Is the yard tended? Do they have a way to remove snow/ice?
Checking these items will give you a good picture of if they're really doing okay. It can also be a matter of them not "seeing" problems and needing an outside perspective—they may not notice stacked up garbage or have lived with the broken washing machine for so long they just don't think about it any more. You can also be a reminder that something they are just "dealing with" isn't normal and it can be taken care of.
Even if they think it's not "independent living" to have a support team, getting a good system in place can make it possible for them to stay home and on their own for longer. For example, hiring reliable cleaning and snow removal services would make a big difference! Many grocery stores now offer delivery, and Amazon makes ordering things like toilet paper and toothpaste really easy.
Weather and the holidays can often lead to many seniors suffering from isolation, sadness, and depression. Beyond their physical needs, they have the mental and social need to see friends and family. So when you check on their living situation, also make sure they can get to church, the doctor, and anywhere else they are used to going. Or that they are getting aspects of those activities brought to them.
It truly takes a village, and not just to raise kids! Taking care of the seniors among us is a group effort and just as important. Make sure those in your life have what they need over the winter months.
Do you have more questions about elder care or elder law? Let us know, we are happy to help—we can help you find a care coordinator or even know where to start. You can also tune into our recent podcast about home health care.