Anyone can feel lonely or socially isolated at times, but older adults are particularly susceptible to this. If you have an aging parent or another senior family member you care about, you can make their day special with a simple phone call or in-person visit. Here are some tips to help you make the most of check-ins with elderly loved ones.
Why Checking in with Your Senior Loved One is So Important
Life gets busy, so you might not always remember to check on the older adults in your life. But once you realize how important this is, you’ll make every effort to reach out monthly, weekly, or even daily, depending on your loved one’s needs. Here are the top reasons to stay in close contact with your senior family members.
Evaluate Their Mental Health, Safety & Well-Being
It’s easy to assume your loved one is fine if they say they are, but you can take in cues during your in-person or virtual visits to better assess their mental health, safety, and well-being.
- Pay attention to what’s happening in the background of a video chat. Does the house look tidy, or are things unkempt?
- Consider their appearance. Are they keeping up with personal hygiene, or is their clothing stained and hair disheveled?
- Look for signs of limited mobility. Does your loved one sit still during the entire chat, or do they get up and move around?
- Watch for facial cues and listen to the inflections in their voice. Do they look and sound happy, or is there sadness in their expression and tone?
Relive Old Memories & Make New Ones
Reconnecting with a loved one after a while is a perfect time to reminisce about the good times you’ve had together. Share pictures and videos to brighten their day and help them connect emotionally with you. Having a nostalgic chat is good for cognition and mental health because it increases the positivity a senior feels about the life they have lived.
Even so, don’t make senior check-ins all about the past. Enjoy the present and look to the future as well. During phone calls and video chats, ask what your loved one is looking forward to in the coming week. If you can, schedule an in-person visit soon. Then, during that visit, make new memories together by doing things you both enjoy.
Remind Them How Much You Care
You may assume your family members know you love them, but it always helps to offer a reminder. Sure, everyone gives and receives love in different ways. Still, seniors almost always respond positively to a scheduled visit, an invitation to take a walk or a phone call out of the blue.
Help Fight Social Isolation
Living through a pandemic has shown everyone what it’s like to experience social isolation. You probably felt the adverse physical and mental effects yourself! Some seniors live in isolation for days, weeks, or even months at a time. Senior check-ins help keep your loved one from feeling lonely.
When you make a video call, let your elderly parents see and chat with your kids. This can boost their mood and bring a smile to their face. Then, set aside time for a one-on-one conversation without distracting children around so you can connect on a deeper level.
Questions to Ask When Checking In on a Senior
Not sure what to say when you call your loved one for a chat? It’s okay to lead with, “How are you?” but you may find you get a one-word answer. By asking more open-ended questions, you can take your relationship to a new level. Pick up the phone with this list of ideas in front of you, and see how interesting and fulfilling the conversation can be:
- What has been your favorite part of the day so far?
- What have you been reading lately?
- Have you watched any good movies recently?
- What have you been up to this past week?
- Have you tried anything new lately that you enjoyed?
- What do you have planned for tomorrow?
- Is there something on your calendar you’re looking forward to?
- What can I do to make your day better?
When to Request a Welfare Check
When it’s been a while since you heard from your senior loved one, it’s natural to become worried. Regular check-ins offer peace of mind, especially if a parent or other aging family member has limited mobility or lives alone.
What if you have repeatedly called or knocked on the door with no response? Or what if your loved one’s recent strange or unexpected behavior makes you believe they may be in trouble? Under these circumstances, asking for a welfare check from a neighbor or the police is probably a good idea.
Besides being unable to contact someone, other circumstances also warrant a wellness check. For instance, it’s good to check in when the weather changes. Older adults are more vulnerable to hypothermia in the winter and hyperthermia in the summer because the body loses some ability to manage temperature changes with age. Checking in with the elderly ensures they are controlling the indoor temperature properly. If they fall and can’t get up to adjust the thermostat, a welfare check could be life-saving.
Rest assured that most welfare checks uncover some innocent reason the senior didn’t answer the door or pick up the phone. Perhaps they didn’t hear the knocking, their phone wasn’t charged, or they weren’t at home. Even so, if you have cause for concern, it’s better to check on your loved one rather than ignore the feeling that something is wrong.
Consider In-Home Senior Care
While checking in with seniors is great for your peace of mind, it isn’t always enough. BrightStar Care can boost the level of care your loved one receives with a wide range of in-home services, including non-medical personal care, companion care, and skilled nursing care. To learn more, please contact us at 866-618-7827.