CONWAY — The holidays are a time for many to return home and visit friends and loved ones. It’s also a time to take stock of what you want for yourself, or for your family in the new year.

Is there a new diagnosis or worsening condition? Are there issues with keeping up with housekeeping or personal care?

The caregivers at Visiting Nurse Homecare and Hospice of Carroll County offer these recommendations on how to take stock, regroup and think about what you want in 2020:

• Check in with older loved ones. Do your holiday plans include connecting with older relatives you may not have seen for a few months — or even since last Christmas? This is a great opportunity to touch base on how they are getting along. Are their living quarters kempt? Are they taking care of themselves in terms of dress and personal hygiene? Is there food in the fridge? You might consider helping them connect with long-term care services.

Long-term care is a good choice for those who wish to remain in their homes and in their own community. This work is done by licensed nursing assistants with registered nurse oversight, and by home health aides and homemaker support services.

Licensed nursing assistants help with daily living activities and provide hands-on personal care services. These may include assistance with bathing, dressing and eating. Home health aides and homemakers perform such services as help with laundry, groceries, cleaning and other routine household tasks. Learn more at vnhch.org.

• Increase social interaction. Social isolation goes beyond loneliness. It can cause a change in mental status and physical appearance. Those with little or no family support are especially at risk. Mount Washington Valley is fortunate to have resources for seniors, but it takes an involved loved one sometimes to get them engaged. For instance, the Mt. Washington Valley Adult Day Center opened earlier this year. Socialization is a big part of their mission. With their purpose-driven activities and social

interactions with their staff and with their fellow guests, this center is ideal for a family member with cognitive decline who is experiencing social isolation. Connect with their social services coordinator and learn about their transportation options and how to enroll. Call (603) 356-4980 or go to atmwvadultdaycenter.org.

We are also lucky to have the Gibson Center for Senior Services in our community.  With congregate meals, fun activities, exercise and field trips, the Gibson Center is the place to be for seniors who need to interact with others. They, too, offer transportation options. Go to their website at gibsoncenter.org for a full schedule of activities.

• Continue to touch base. If you only see your older loved ones at the holidays, or if you live out of town, lining up a regular “touch base” to lay eyes on the individual can be a life saver. Whether it’s arranging for long-term care services or taking advantage of “Project Good Morning” which some local police departments offer. Project Good Morning is a daily check-in program that is available to elderly citizens who do not have regular contact with a person on a day-to-day basis. The Gibson Center also coordinates Meals on Wheels. It provides a daily meal and a daily interaction with the volunteers who deliver the meals.

• Consider palliative care. Has a recent diagnosis been made, such as chronic heart failure or cancer? Palliative care is not just for those at the end of life. Palliative care can be a process that helps someone make decisions in advance of how they want their condition to be managed, and to help prepare the family for what is to come.

Palliative care provides in-home care to someone who is facing a serious, life-limiting illness, and who needs help managing their pain or other symptoms. Palliative care is offered by a specially trained interdisciplinary clinical team that is skilled in symptom management.

Attention is focused on pain management and control of symptoms (such as shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite or difficulty sleeping).

However, palliative care also includes a strong emphasis on educating clients and their families, and providing support and resources for them as they plan for their future. Visiting Nurse Home Care & Hospice launched its palliative care services last year and is a great resource for those wishing to understand more about it. Line it up for the new year and be ready for what the future brings.

• Complete advance care directives. End of year is a good time to ensure that the very important work of creating advance care directives is complete and up-to-date. Advance care directives are easy to create, and Visiting Nurse Home Care & Hospice provides free services to complete them. Don’t wait until it’s too late to let end of life wishes be known.

• Take care of yourself. It’s also important to take care of yourself. Caring for a loved one is hard work. It doesn’t have to be done alone. In fact, caregivers need respite or face their own increased risk of health issues. The MWV Adult Day Center offers a caregiver support group on Tuesday afternoons. Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice also offers a variety of support groups, including bereavement groups for both adults and children.

The new year is a time to look back at the year that has passed but also to look ahead to all you want to accomplish in 2020. Take care of yourself, take care of your elderly family members and loved ones, and you’ll end the year headed in the right direction.

For more information about Visiting Nurse Homecare and Hospice, go to vnhch.org.

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