Like many families, around the holidays we get together and spend a few days with our aging parents practicing treasured family traditions.
It’s a time everyone can decompress and unplug to actually spend dedicated time enjoying life and enjoying each other. For us, most often this turns into a staycation it’s nothing glamorous but it is intentional and it is deliberate. It’s a time when old family recipes are prepared and enjoyed. It’s a time when the board games come out and laughter fills the room. It’s a time where we linger around the dining room table sharing “remember when’s,” reminiscing and exchanging our favorite family memories.
It may be the warmth and comfort of the fireplace coupled with the smell of something delicious cooking in the oven, but spending this time together as a multi-generational family allowed me to reflect on the importance of freedom and choice. The freedom and choice to age in place for our parents in their own homes is ideal. I found this time spent together over the holidays to be ideal in noticing the small things that our aging parents may need assistance in with their activities of daily living.
In our family we are blessed that we have the opportunity to help each other when one of us needs a break from being a family caregiver. I recognize this isn’t everyone’s experience. As a family caregiver it is imperative that you realize when you need to recharge your batteries and ask for help from family or even extend that ask, to perhaps professional caregivers.
My 80-year-old mother-in-law loves to cook all her old world Greek recipes (family favorites!) but chopping and cutting all the vegetables by hand aggravates her arthritis. During this time of preparing these traditional dishes - we realized it would be helpful to just go on Amazon and buy her a small electronic chopper for $22. In fact, she called yesterday to tell me how much she is using it and how helpful it has been to her. It was a simple fix, helping her to remain independent and able to do the activities of daily living she so enjoys-cooking from scratch. The greatest part, other than enjoying her amazing Pistachio, was the comfort in knowing that we made a connection while spending time in the kitchen together and finding that solution to keep her doing what she loves-cooking for our family.
My husband could see his father struggling to open his morning medication bottles during this time spent together also. Our solution was to go to the local drugstore and buy a weekly medi- set box. My husband set up his father’s meds for the week in providing grandpa an easy solution to this daily task which otherwise was a great struggle for him.
My son who is an RN, noticed the extra breaks his grandparents had to take when visiting the Christmas tree farm. While the additional pit stops limited how far we could go at any given time, it was refreshing to see it didn’t really bother anyone. Someone would make a joke, bring up a memory, no one seemed to mind. To the contrary I could see the grandparents lighting up in conversations as we paused for them to catch their breath. They delighted in seeing the youngest in the family run ahead and toddle in front of us.
Knowing how much joy these holiday traditions bring to our family, old and young alike, I have no doubt these cherished times must bring to our aging parents. The joy helped me realize how important companionship and the freedom to age at home is for our parents and part of eldercare.
Now that the holiday hustle and bustle has concluded and we are all moving forward into the new year, it might be a great time to reflect back on your family interactions with your aging loved ones. Look back and see what activities of daily living they might have had a struggle with and how you might be able to offer them some solutions. If you hadn’t had the chance to do so during the holidays, now may be a great opportunity to go spend some time with your aging loved one. See what challenges they may be facing day-to-day that you aren’t aware of. I am certain if you do some research, you can assist them in ways they would be so eternally grateful. These simple small adaptations offer freedom and independence that is so valued by seniors. By doing so, you are offering them the freedom and choice to age in place at home. I have been told, this is one of the greatest gifts we can offer our aging loved one.
Professional In-home care services such as Home Instead Senior Care offers, may give your parents additional help by prepping meals, housekeeping, getting out to exercise and simple companionship. Professionally trained caregivers can come with vast experience in Alzheimer’s and/or hospice care depending on your specific care needs. Hiring a professional caregiver provides the family caregiver respite which makes all of the difference in the world. Make your New Year’s resolution to investigate and find opportunities to lighten some of the burden that accompanies aging of your senior loved ones.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.