Check-in on elderly family members this holiday season
The ongoing pandemic will hinder families’ traditional holiday events worldwide. Older adults may feel the sting of this more than others this year. A Baylor College of Medicine expert provides tips on how to make this holiday season joyful for loved ones who cannot join festivities this year.
“As much as you love the older adults in your life, now is not the time to gather with them, especially if you’re not in their bubble,” said Dr. Angela Catic, assistant professor in the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor.
Instead of reflecting on things you cannot do with your loved ones, brainstorm what you can do for them. Whether you live a mile away or across the country, show love to older adults by having a holiday meal delivered, sending a bouquet of flowers or thinking of other creative ways to make their day special.
According to Catic, many older adults have become more tech-savvy this year, so check in on your older family members virtually. Cook a holiday meal together and dine with each other via video conference or by phone. Those who live near to their family can also do window visits to catch up and check on the older adults.
“You can really observe so much with window visits. See if the older adults are moving around, if they’ve lost weight and how the house looks,” Catic said. “Families can even set up tables on each side of the window, turn on their phones and dine together.”
The holiday season is a practical time to observe your elders cognition and memory. Catic suggests conversing with them without being invasive. Discuss current events or reminisce about past holidays to see if they can follow and engage in these types of conversations. Talk about the future to lift their mood and encourage them to see light at the end of the tunnel. As much as cognition is a concern, so is mental health.
Isolation caused by the pandemic has led to mental health concerns in older adults. Family members can help improve their mood by having regular communication via phone, video or window. Set up a calling tree among different family members so the older adult gets several calls each day. Older adults who are physically and cognitively able to do so should spend time outdoors every day. Sit in the backyard or on the porch, or walk around the neighborhood.
“Being outdoors boosts the mood. They may see people out and about, which is good for their spirits. Outdoors is safer than indoors, but they should still wear a mask,” Catic said.
Many older adults have expressed fear of leaving their home to get their flu vaccines, so encourage your loved ones to get their shot at their doctor’s office or a nearby pharmacy.
“If there are red flags or if something seems off with an older family member, reach out to their medical providers about the best way to address this,” Catic said “Whether it’s a virtual or face-to-face visit, hospitals and clinics have safety as their top priority. Maintaining the health of older adults is a priority and we are here and available to help."