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Noticing changes in our elder relatives

As we get older, we tend to notice subtle changes in both our bodies and our lives. Even from a young age, when we finally grow tall enough to ride the big kid rides at the carnival, or when we finally realize that our teenage years were full of a little bit too much recklessness, the process of aging is the process of adjusting to our new selves and our new abilities. In much the same way, aging from adulthood into older adulthood is a process marked by changes in both our experience and in our physical and mental capability.

Many times, older people are the ones who have a more experienced and more thoughtful perspective on the world and on their own lives and relationships. But age can also come with new limitations. Perhaps our eyesight isn’t what it used to be (there’s a reason so many places sell reading glasses), or maybe our days of jumping the high part of the diving board aren’t so much fun anymore. These new limitations are an important part of aging, and an important part of transitioning into elderhood and our later years.

But sometimes we don’t notice these changes ourselves. We may deny the ongoing process of getting older and pretend that we still have the same limber limbs, the same sharp eyesight that we’ve always had. I myself find myself squinting painfully at an article or book with too-fine print, holding off on grabbing my reading glasses until I finally come to my senses and put them on. Because of this innate denial in many of us, it is important for relatives and friends to pay attention to their loved ones and their changing needs.

Oftentimes, with long-distance relationships, and the ease of digital communication such as FaceTime, it is easy to overlook some of these changes happening in our loved ones. Maybe they can’t hear us as well because of a bad connection (not worsening hearing), maybe they forget to pick up medication because they’re so busy (not because of their slightly declining memory). These things are difficult to talk about because they are happening to people we love, and it can be scary to think about our own mortality as human beings. But we have a responsibility to our friends and our loved ones to notice things that themselves either cannot or will not.

As relatives and friends of elders, it is important for us to realize when there is an issue that needs to be addressed, and help our elders address it without leaving them to their own resistant devices. Perhaps an elder parent trips a little too often. Perhaps an older relative calls asking where the grocery store is, the grocery store they’ve gone to their entire lives. It is in times like these that a conversation might have to happen about the changes they are experiencing as they transition into elderhood, and the best options for them to continue living a healthy, happy and fulfilling life.

At Senior Steps, as geriatric care managers, our chief responsibility is not acute medical care, but overarching wellness and health. We strive to make sure that all of our clients, and their families and friends, are comfortable with the adjustments that may have to eb made in their daily lives in order for them to continue living comfortably and happily. These conversations, conversations about adjustments that may make them not only happier, but safer, can only happen with an attentive and caring relative or friend. A relative or friend who knows to look out for their elder’s best interest, and wants them to live the safest, healthiest, happiest life that they can, not matter their age.

As we push through the winter and into 2021, keep an eye out and an ear to the ground for your elder relatives. See how they’re doing. They may just need a conversation.

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