Tips for Ensuring Comfort for Visiting Elderly Relatives
Solving the following issues prior to inviting your loved ones for holiday visits is important. Getting a family member’s hopes up regarding a visit and then not being able to see friends and family can deliver a disheartening blow. By planning ahead, the following items can usually be resolved before uncomfortable situations occur during the holidays:
Your visiting elderly parent or relative may be a prolonged sitter or a butterfly. No matter which one, they may need a place to sit comfortably whether or not they have a wheelchair. If they do have a wheelchair, does the height allow them to get out easily? Hopefully the wheelchair armrests come all the way out to allow your loved one to slide off easily. Be conscious of the surrounding spaces. Allow transfers with the wheelchair from your loved one’s stronger side or whichever leg is strongest.
Resting often makes moving around easier for your loved one. They will be more chipper for conversations around the dinner table. Your loved one may need to relax while they are at your home. Do you have a place for them to rest? A couch, chair with a footrest or even a bed would work. Do not forget a cozy blanket!
Timing of the meal is important to everyone because of hunger and energy levels. Your beloved family member may need to time meals while taking medications for keeping blood sugars up. When blood sugars are good, so many benefits are given such as preventing falls and providing good energy levels for playing games and visiting. Meal prep is important for families to make sure their home is ready for all visitors. Having snacks for guests upon arrival provides visiting opportunities, energy balance and prevents ‘HANGRY’ attitudes.
Having a place for your loved one to sit and enjoy their meal is important. Are they going to be able to sit at the table with you? A chair with arms for them to sit in may be more comfortable. If they are in a wheelchair, the wheelchair arms may come off or swing back to get under the table. If not, consider having a TV tray to sit in front of them.
Do you remember what some of your loved one’s favorite foods are? Favorite foods can create fun memories to talk about. Be sure to prepare food they can eat. Sometimes pureed or finely chopped food is necessary. Avoiding certain foods due to medications is extremely important.
Is your loved one comfortable eating in front of others? Eating in front of others can make some folks nervous or sad. If your loved one does not eat neatly in front of others, create a protective covering for clothing that makes them feel festive instead of like a baby with a bib.
Keeping a watchful eye on your visiting elderly relative is important to see how they are getting around inside your home. You’ll want your loved one to feel comfortable and safe moving around. Make sure you bring their walking device such as a walker, cane or wheelchair. Ensure there are clear pathways for walking or wheelchair mobility. Inspect the thresholds in entrances between rooms to see if your loved one may need assistance moving over them.
Is there a bathroom available on the level in your home where your loved one will be most comfortable this holiday? If there is not a bathroom on the main level, think of ways to get them up and down the stairs with someone who is able to safely assist your loved one on the steps. Check if the door is wide enough to get in with a walker and/or wheelchair. Look to see if the toilet height is good for getting on and off the seat. Perhaps a toilet seat riser or grab bars could greatly assist your loved one. These items can easily be installed and uninstalled. Is there an alternative way to go to the bathroom? It may be possible to create a closed area for a bedside commode, which is available online.
Pay attention to the level of holiday noise such as music and multiple conservations. Hearing loss can make participating in conversation difficult. Having issues with short term memory and participating in small talk is very hard. Therefore, thinking of leading questions from your loved one’s past will make conversation at the dinner table more enjoyable. You may also learn some fun facts from your loved one’s past. I sure did with my parents! You may also consider planning holiday games for all family members to play.
While most of the above items can be resolved by planning ahead, sometimes it is best to consider the possibility of an alternative location or even a different place within the home for meals and giving gifts. For example, consider eating food in the living room where they are already gathering. Hosting at another family member’s home may have less obstacles. A restaurant could also be more accessible for family and loved ones. Another idea is to celebrate on Christmas Eve when more restaurants are open.
Be open to all possibilities! This is the holiday season for all to enjoy and remember.