The holidays are an important time in a senior’s life, a chance to be with loved ones and enjoy the pleasures of the season. A visit to your parents or older family members can also show you how well they’re doing and what help they might need. And if you already know about improvements that need to be made, bring along smart gifts for seniors that will improve their quality of life. If not, use the visit to assess their safety and shop together for essential items.
Most important when planning a holiday visit is to create new memories—do things that are fun, something even as simple as a puzzle or a game of cards. Unique gifts for seniors, such as large face playing cards, a special tray to hold them and magnetic puzzles make it possible to enjoy these pastimes even if your senior has some vision loss or arthritis that’s affecting their hands. Remember that loneliness is a serious threat to seniors and the time you spend together is really important to them.
Next, use your visit to get a good idea of their comfort level in their home and the home’s safety factor. Here are a few simple steps to make any home safer for everyone:
- De-clutter—piles of newspapers, unsecured area rugs, loose or dangling cords are all tripping hazards that can lead to life-threatening falls.
- Install/repair secure railings on stairs, inside and outside.
- Upgrade lighting—choose brighter bulbs, replaced burned out or missing bulbs and check the quality of indoor and outdoor lighting, at all entries into the house as well as strategic locations like a hallway from bedroom to bathroom.
- Check all exterior walkways. Is the path from their car or sidewalk into the home clear of debris and level? Ask what they do when it snows—do your parents employ a service to clear it from the house entry? If not, investigate local options.
- Do a thorough bathroom check. It’s the most dangerous room in the house for everyone. So if anyone is unsteady or has balance issues, the bathroom becomes even more of a hazard. And grabbing a regular towel rack for stability will likely backfire—chances are, it will come right off the wall because it’s not made to hold the weight of even a slight person. To shore up the bathroom, these gifts for the bath make perfect sense—safety improvements that are easy and don’t scream “I’m getting older”:
- A stylish yet functional nonslip insert for the bathtub or shower
- A beautiful teak or a brightly colored bath or shower chair that makes it easier to take care of hygiene needs when standing for long periods of time is hard
- Grab bars to place strategically near the tub, shower and toilet—the number one key item that will help your aging parent feel safe and secure
- A raised toilet seat, to reduce the amount of bending needed to get up and down or, if bending isn’t a problem but stability is, a toilet safety frame
Finally, look for clues about your loved one’s day-to-day needs. Is Dad having a hard time getting up from his favorite chair? There are seat assists that offer the leverage needed to rise. An item like the Assist-A-Tray also provides a handy surface to place essential items. In the bedroom, a bed assist provides the same function—it attaches bedside and gives support when getting in and out of bed.
Is Mom having a hard time hearing the phone when it rings or hearing you on the other end of the line? Maybe seeing the numbers on the keypad is the problem. A 911 alert pendant/telephone with enhanced sounds answers all these needs.
Are your loved ones forgetting to take their medications? A reminder pill box that organizes a week’s worth of pills and has an alarm that can be set up to 4 times a day will keep them on track.
Use your time together to gently bring up the subject of these helpful daily living aids and shop for them online with your loved one—you’ll find great designs that are beautiful as well as functional, like products by award-winning Michael Graves. Acknowledge that this is a difficult topic—no one wants to admit that they’re not as independent as they used to be. And remember to be respectful—you don’t want to make your parent feel like the child in the relationship. Explain that you want them to be safe and that these gifts for the home will actually keep them independent longer. And, after all, that’s the best holiday gift you can give.