We’ve already talked about how you can make the holidays a joyful and productive time with your elderly loved ones. But, there are also holiday-specific situations that can put your elders at risk. Let’s look at a few:
1) Complications with medications: The holidays are a time of indulgence, and for many that includes alcohol. It’s
truly important to understand the medications that your loved one takes and what potential there is for complications—especially when mixing them with alcohol.
2) Dietary needs and restrictions. Are your loved ones on a special diet? Do they have high blood pressure or diabetes? Make sure you are aware of their dietary needs and limitations when you prepare food for them. Also, keep an eye on what they are consuming in social situations. It’s okay to talk to them if you think they are putting themselves at risk. Of course, do it diplomatically and in a way that doesn’t embarrass them.
3) Increased risk of falls. The holidays in Alaska usually involve snow and ice. This time of year, it’s especially important to make sure your elder can get around safely outside. But, it’s also really important to keep an eye on them during holiday festivities. If they are in an unfamiliar or busy place, they may find themselves more confused, or they may not be aware of the potential hazards.
4) The urge to rush. Even if you love the holidays, they can be stressful. This is especially true for many of our elders, because some tasks can be harder to accomplish and they might not move at the speed that everyone else is moving. Slow down. Give your elders time. This is a good thing for everyone, because we all get caught up in rushing and then we make mistakes; mistakes that can sometimes be tragic. Slowing down can help prevent those mistakes but also help us remember what really matters in life. That’s not a bad thing!
5) Cold weather. Yes, this is a risk to the elderly throughout the winter season, but the holidays can make it a greater risk, because we may pay less attention, as we are preoccupied with festivities, shopping, cooking, etc. Some elderly adults are especially vulnerable to hypothermia. If your loved one has arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, respiratory problems, poor circulation, memory impairment, dementia or other mental illness, it’s important that you pay close attention to them over the holidays.
6) Depression. We mentioned this in our last post, but it should be repeated. Depression in our elderly should not be taken lightly and the holidays can make it worse. Look for signs of depression and if you see them, don’t hesitate to act.
The best things you can do for your elderly loved ones over the holidays are pay attention to them and spend time with them. That way, you can help reduce the risks they might be exposed to AND celebrate life with them.