Christmas catch-ups with old friends and relatives are a great way to stay in touch but they can also serve as a way to check on health and wellbeing, according to Queensland aged care provider Ozcare.
Ozcare have identified key signs an older person may need support as Christmas brings people together for another year.
Ozcare’s Dementia Services State Coordinator Karen Constant said aged care providers received the most calls for assistance at Christmas as annual catch-ups showed that some loved ones had declined in the past year.
So look out for some clues that indicate changes in ability for the person
- What is the person eating and drinking – is there food in the fridge and cupboards; are these nearly empty or packed with spoiled food? What fluid is the person consuming? Check out if they are drinking enough water.
- Has the person’s appearance changed? Or is the house uncharacteristically looking a little dishevelled? Does the shower and laundry look as though it is being used?
- Is the person still involved in their old hobbies for example reading, gardening, playing cards, going out with friends or have they become socially isolated?
- Is the person still able to make themselves a cup of tea and can they put together a meal for themselves? This is always a simple sign if people can follow instructions, or if they still plan and organise their day-to-day needs. Look for mail piling up around the letterbox, missed appointments or complaints about lost items.
- Check out medications – are they being taken correctly and at the right time, are they being forgotten or is the dosage being doubled because the person is not sure if it has been taken or not?
Ms Constant says while noticing changes can be difficult, any conversations people have with loved ones about any perceived troubles need to be approached with care.
“You need to enjoy Christmas first and subtly keep an eye out for changes. Enjoy your loved one’s stories and company, respect their right for choice and independence – but don’t take a ‘big brother’ attitude in which you’re seen to be watching every move. This will only get the person off side,” Ms Constant said.
“The idea would be not to use negative statements like “Look how dirty this laundry is. Haven’t you been cleaning it? Are you still showering? You are not using your medication correctly,” she said.
“A better approach would be just to sit down with them on the couch and ask about how their day normally goes.
“If you are concerned, you may be able to touch base with their GP in consultation with the person. A GP will not be able to divulge any personal information, but you may visit the GP and express your concerns. You need to be open and honest. It could be just a matter of getting some sort of small service started.
“If you need to find out more or are just simply worried you can talk to Ozcare.”
Ms Constant said Christmas was a great chance to bridge the isolation in families and communities brought about by busy family lives and a growing use of technology.
“Families are busy and it is a different world for an older person. Older people have a great deal of knowledge and skill and can be teachers and we can learn an enormous amount from them – we as a society need to know how to promote that,” she said.