Happy Holiday Visits With Older Adults

By Denise Pott, LCSW
Assistance Home Care

Visiting with older adults at holiday time can be a wonderful experience. It often brings back happy memories, and is an opportunity for renewing family ties. Sometimes, though, seeing a loved one who is aging can be cause for worry. They may be experiencing a decline in their vision or hearing, or may not be getting around as well as they once did. Being aware of these changes and planning ahead can help make get togethers go more smoothly! Here are 5 tips to ensure a safe and happy holiday visit.

1. Older Adults May Not Function As Well in a Crowd
Many older people are unaccustomed to the hustle and bustle of a holiday gathering. When there are many distractions and a lot of people talking at once, it may be difficult for them to focus. They may have trouble carrying on a conversation and feel overwhelmed. Try to help them find a comfortable spot, and offer an opportunity for quiet time or a nap to help them refresh themselves and enjoy the day more fully.

2. Changes in Hearing and Vision May Create Problems
Try to ensure that your loved ones bring their glasses and hearing aids when they come to visit. If you notice that they’re having difficulty hearing, lower the pitch of your voice to help them hear better, and face them when speaking. Older adults often rely on lipreading without even realizing it. Turn off music or television programs which can create uncomfortable noise and distractions. To help someone who is not seeing well, ensure that they have adequate light and give them a seat that is facing away from windows or bright lights. Many people with cataracts have great difficulty with glare in these situations and will do much better when it is eliminated.

3. Remove Fall Hazards
Before your loved one arrives at your home, take extra precautions in clearing away any snow or ice outdoors, both on the pavement and on handrails. Be sure that they have assistance getting inside. Take a look around the house for fall hazards such as throw rugs and extension cords. Clear any clutter or obstacles that may be in their path, especially near stairways.

4. Comfortable Seating
Older adults having difficulty with mobility may have a hard time getting up and down from a seat that is low, especially if it does not have armrests. Keep older adults away from chairs that swivel, as they can cause falls. Try to provide a higher chair for them; it may help to add pillows to raise the height of the seat. Be sure to let the rest of the family know the plan to avoid awkward moments, and steer your loved one to a comfortable and safe spot to enjoy the festivities.

5. Older Adults Often Function Better in a Familiar Environment
They often do better in their own home. If you are concerned about an older adult who seems to be having difficulty functioning physically or showing signs or memory loss, arrange to visit them at home to see how they are faring there.
When you visit an older relative and they don’t seem to be getting on well in their own home, you may want to talk with them about arranging for some help on a daily or weekly basis. Companies like Assistance Home Care can provide a free assessment, and arrange for an in-home caregiver to help out with housekeeping, meals, personal care, transportation, or other services that they may need.

For more information, visit our website at www.assistanceathome.com. Or call at one of our area offices: St. Louis 314-631-1989 St. Charles 636-724-4357 West County 636-200-2909.