Guest Post from a a Michigan Home Care company: BrightStar and Kathy Hannah:
The holidays are a time of year when many families get together, seeing each other face to face for the first time in many months or more. Experts advise families to carefully watch for signs of possible depression, changes in mental status, or medical issues in older adults and be prepared with spirit lifting activities and be able to develop a plan of action before heading back home.
According to BrightStar Care, a full service home care agency that provides both medical and non-medical care to patients from infants to elders, 15 of every 100 adults over the age of 65 are affected by depression. For many families that are geographically far from their aging loved ones, the holidays m provide a rare opportunity to look for potential warning signs of depression, forgetfulness, or other medical issues.
“Although the holiday season is typically a time of celebration and joy, this time of year can create a sense of nostalgia and melancholy amongst the senior population,” says Sharon Roth Maguire, Chief Clinical Officer of BrighStar Care. “Family visits are a prime opportunity to not only observe the warning signs, but also provide much needed companionship, mental stimulation and general uplifting activities. In many cases, these visits can be lifesaving.”
Roth Maguire encourages family members to look for the following signs when visiting their loved ones:
- Physical Signs-Take note of changes in sleeping and eating habits, including reduced appetite and difficulty sleeping. Accidents around the home, including dizziness or falling could also indicate a physical condition or side effects of improperly mixing medications or taking the wrong doses.
- Appearance-Not shaving, not doing hair or makeup and neglected hygiene can signal the inability to physically care for themselves on their own, or a loss of interest in appearance. Either may indicate depression or a wide range of undiagnosed conditions that require professional attention.
- Emotional Signs-Seniors are especially susceptible to feelings of isolation and depression because of health, financial issues or the loss of a spouse or other loved ones, especially during the holiday season. As families gather together, pay close attention to see if your aging loved one seems disinterested in group conversations and appears dazed or lackluster.
- Environmental Signs-Look for an abnormally messy or cluttered home, piles of laundry or unpaid bills or rotting food in the refrigerator. Any of these things are a sign that the older adult may no longer be able to perform these household tasks on their own, requiring an outside caregiver to help.
The Holidays and winter are also an important time for senior flu prevention, as this time marks the start of flu season. When it comes to infection prevention overall, seniors aged 65 and over are an important and often more vulnerable segment of the population. According to the Center for Disease Control, this is because human immune defenses become weaker with age, making influenza and other infections very serious for the elderly population. In fact more than 60 percent of seasonal flu related hospitalizations in the US each year occur in people 65 years and older.
BrightStar Care’s “Healthy for the Holidays” program aims to promote whole person wellness by focusing on physical as well as emotional health and, specifically, flu prevention and providing additional support to seniors who may have the “Holiday Blues.”