As the older loved ones in our lives continue to age, we may start to notice more and more worrying signs than were there before. At first, we may have an urge to downplay or sideline the threats we perceive, but it’s important to stop and check-in and make sure we’re not ignoring major vulnerabilities or, more serious yet, cries for help.
The risk of illness
When we’re over 50 years old, we’re at a much greater risk of chronic disease, including diabetes, heart conditions, obesity, arthritis, and much more. Health can be a sensitive topic to start asking about at any point, but there are ways to influence the health choices of our loved ones. If you’re involved in their daily lifestyle, opt to make it a healthier one by finding more opportunities to be physically active together and by making meals together. You can also offer to help them arrange and attend doctors’ visits, such as their annual physical to make sure they’re in the best shape they can be.
The above concern for the wellbeing of our loved ones extends to this point as well. Memory disorders, such as dementia and Alzeimer’s, overwhelmingly affect older people. Rather than infantilizing them immediately and removing any chance for independence in their lifestyle, you can help them be involved in decisions about their care. It’s important to be aware of the responsibility that can come with a loved one who is developing a memory disorder and to talk about the long-term plans for dealing with it as early as possible.
The threat of abuse
Whether due to failing physical health, memory disorders, or otherwise, we are more likely to need full-time care when older, and this can make us vulnerable. Abuse and neglect of elderly people by their caregivers is a serious risk. By learning about and avoiding the worst nursing homes, you can hope to avoid much of that trouble. However, regardless of where your loved one lives and who cares for them, it’s important to pay attention to any complaints they may have about bullying, violence, or not having their primary needs cared for. Too often, the concerns of our seniors are downplayed as imaginary or perceived only by them when they could be a cry for help.
Loneliness and isolation
Contributing to the risk of all three threats mentioned above is the fact that it becomes easier to isolate us as we grow older. It can happen quite naturally that we fall out of touch with old friends and have less contact with our family members. Addressing the taboo topic of senior isolation is important. Have a conversation about your loved one’s social life, and beyond trying to maintain better contact with their family, you can help them find support and hobbyist groups to make new peers, too.
The onus is on us to ensure that the generation that came before us is taken care of, and not left to both internal and external threats when we could protect them.
This is a contributed post.