What’s on Your Senior Menu?

There’s less than a week to go to Thanksgiving. Travel plans are all in order. Menus are set. We’re all set to smile tolerantly in the face of whatever familial tortures are headed our way. It’s a holiday. It’s a time for family to get together. It’ll be over soon. We can get through it.

Sadly, people put more thought into their once a year holiday celebrations than they do into what they’ll do every day for the rest of their lives. I’m not just talking about career, home ownership, retirement planning, and that kind of thing. I’m talking about the nearly inevitable facets of life that will capture us in some way — usually when we’re not looking.

In case of emergency…break glass?

Sometimes we need a closer look at the things that are going on around us than we can get in a normal “drive-by” visit. Holidays are a perfect opportunity to check on your parents — or any caregivers in your family. When you’re hanging around the house for prolonged periods and there are lots of people to distract them, take a good look around.

Make a list and check it twice…

Holidays are a perfect time to pay attention to the little details. Are there things that need to be fixed? Does the ironing board stand in the corner all day now instead of hanging on the back of the door like it always did when it wasn’t in use? Is your mom or the sibling who lives with your mom wearing the same holiday outfit as in last year’s photos? Do the clothes still fit the same?

Same old raggedy dress?

It’s generally better in the long run when we take a proactive stance on the issues in our lives — when we get actively involved in some way. Instead of waiting for the two a.m. summons or the shock of realization that the caregiver in your life has lost 20 pounds, we should actively look for problems now and deal with them before they become serious problems.

Try a little tenderness…

Back to the Thanksgiving idea. You make plans for Thanksgiving, whether or not you’re going to be doing the cooking. Most people don’t just show up on someone’s doorstep without making sure that someone will be home (and that there’ll be food). We plan at least enough for the holidays to make sure that someone will be taking care of the planning and details. We should make sure that we’re doing at least that much planning for our lives.

This Thanksgiving, don’t just cruise into town, eat your turkey, and bail — grateful that you got the chance to get away. Talk to (and about if necessary) the seniors in your life and those who care for them. Check for signs of dementia, depression, and desire (that’s just things they want but are doing without for whatever reason). Figure out what you can do to help, and then do it.

A plan might be a better gift for yourself in the long run than the two a.m. summons and frantic activity you may face otherwise. Help might make a better Christmas present than the new gadget you were planning to send.

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