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HEALTH   -   SENIORS
Celebrating with Seniors
December, 2012 - Issue #98
When my sisters and I were little, our Grandpa "Lefty" would sneak out at the conclusion of every Christmas party, well after we thought that the last gift was opened, and return with a black Hefty trash bag filled to the brim with presents wrapped in newspaper. I can count my memorable childhood Christmas gifts on one hand, and it's no coincidence that at least four of them were wrapped in the Sunday comics.

The tradition ceased as, one by one, his grandchildren sprung from the nest. For a full decade and more, the only trash bags that were used on Christmas contained discarded wrapping paper.

Last year, though, was different. After losing our grandmother and aunt in quick consecutive order, I thought we could all use a little extra cheer. A widow who had just buried a daughter, Lefty was in no mood to do holiday shopping. My Christmas gift to him was a Hefty trash bag filled with presents for others, hidden in the garage until I revealed it to him well after his great-grandchildren were certain that the last gift had been opened. He took such joy in reprising his role as "Newspaper Santa" that I swore I'd do it again for him every year.

Except I won't. He died this summer, at a very fit 93, after falling and breaking his hip. This holiday season will be the third in a row where yet another chair sits empty. But what will be filled to the brim will be our collection of memories.

That's why I so heartily agree with Myles McNamara's response to a quandary he gets asked multiple times every year. The owner of Comfort Keepers In-home Care (287-4200 www.comfortkeepers.com/caregivers/205/) is regularly questioned: "What should I get the senior in my life?" His answer is always the same: "Time." "Spend an extra hour with that aging loved one, or better yet, set aside a day," encourages the business owner who specializes in providing assistance to seniors in their own home. "Loneliness, abandonment and depression are huge issues among our seniors during the holidays. I know from talking to my clients and the seniors in my life that they would gladly exchange most any gift for moments with their loved ones. I know it's a crazy time of the year, but downshift, take a breath and take a loved one to lunch. I know that, as my own kids grow older and will one day be out on their own, that I am dreading the fact that I won't be able to see and spend time with them on a daily basis. It gives me insight into what my parents go through when I don't call them to check in or spend time with them either on the phone or in person. You've heard it said before that when someone is coming to the end of their time here on earth, they never say, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office!' Now's the time to connect with those you love."

This Season, Make a Plan to Reduce the Stress
According to experts, the main reason for holiday stress is unrealistic expectations. From the time we are children, we build up expectations of what the holidays should be. In the media we see perfect images of family, friends, food, parties and gifts. What we fail to see is that these are staged scenes. What we have to realize over the holidays is that there's nothing wrong with falling short of perfect.

For many seniors the holidays can be stressful, confusing, or even depressing. They may be missing a loved one or remembering a time when they were more active. However, there are things you can do to make the holiday season easier and more enjoyable for your loved one, and for you.

Think about your next steps and how you can create your own action plan.
• What things I can do to make the holidays easier and more enjoyable for my senior loved one?
• What resources can I enlist to help with holiday tasks, such as shopping and preparing meals?
• What ways can I help my loved one beat the holiday blues?
Here are a few "gifty" gadgets geared toward making independent living easier.

Large-button Phone: They make calling easier for seniors with a large lighted display, big buttons, speed dialing and caller ID.

Doorbells and Telephones: There are versions that flash a light in addition to ringing.

Large-button Universal TV Remote: A handy tool that makes seeing the numbers and pressing the right buttons so much easier for seniors.

Large-faced Electric Wall Clock: They are easy to read and have no batteries to replace.
Home Instead Senior Care for Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys 254-8701 www.homeinstead.com/618

Be Alert to Changes in your Family Members' Condition
Many people reconnect with older family members during the holiday season, so it's a good time to be alert for changes in their condition. Physical, mental and emotional changes due to the aging process can affect a senior's ability to live at home comfortably and safely, but that doesn't mean they will need to relocate to an assisted living or nursing facility. Changes in the ability to obtain and prepare food, care for pets, keep current with doctor appointments and prescriptions may simply indicate a need for increased visits by family members or the addition of hired in-home care or other services intended to assist seniors at home.

Ask yourself the following questions:
• Have they become forgetful or confused?
• Is there a change in their ability to walk safely?
• If they are still driving, has there been a decrease in the ability to operate a car safely?
• Have they had a change in weight or grooming habits?
• Are there expired medications or food in the home?
• Are there signs of depression, such as a change in sleep patterns, contact with friends or other social habits?
263-2273 www.visitingangels.com/santaclarita/home
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