The holiday season means many families come together and spend quality time together. The pace of our lives these days, and the fact that many families do not live close to each other, means that this time of year is an important chance for us to reconnect and check-in to see how people are travelling. It’s also a time of reflection. A chance to plan for changes in circumstances, for individuals and families.
Many discussions I have with people in the lead up to Christmas involve how their parents’ needs are changing, and the support their older loved ones may need to ensure they can live well and age healthily.
In some of my professional work, I see families working through big decisions around accommodation and health arrangements for family members who haven’t had the opportunity to do this in a planned way and are instead confronted with incredibly complex issues at times of great family crisis.
I reflected that there are probably ways that we can all do this better. I recently sought advice from a friend of mine who works as an accredited aged care professional about how we can better plan to support our older family members.
The key to planning is conversation.
It’s important to plan ahead and work out what help may be needed to support our loved ones lead the lives they want as they get older.
While it can feel awkward, a well-run family meeting is one way to find out what people’s preferences and needs are, and how the family can work together to meet needs and expectations (not just for the elderly person but the rest of the family as well).
If you can’t be around all the time, remember to check in regularly and ask about issues like how capable they are at driving, and are they on top of house-work and house maintenance. If you don’t have the time, this is one area where there may be outside services that can make this easier. In the age of the internet, paying bills and house administration can be taken care of with just a few clicks.
A big issue for many is making sure that people stay healthy. That means diet. Moving into old age sees weight loss rather than weight gain as a potential issue. Weight loss can be a sign of undernutrition, which is an increasing concern.
Again, third-parties can help with care and support, including food services and dietitians.
Few of us like to confront the end of life and death, but what people’s preferences and desires are should be discussed – not just as we age.
As well as a will, considering putting in place an enduring power of attorney and an end of life plan – no matter your age. This can provide some comfort and assistance if you need to make decisions for your loved one at a time of crisis and they are unable to communicate their desires.
Most important for all of us is having a network of people to support us at times of need – and as you never know when that time might be, it pays to plan.
What are your ideas for how we can support each other this holiday season?
Thanks to Luisa Capezio for sharing her thoughts on how to best support our loved ones as they get older.