My friend’s mother isn’t making Santa cookies for the grandkids this year. For over 76 years, Joanne has added cinnamon to an otherwise plain cookie recipe, rolled the dough onto cookie tins and carved, baked, and painted the same shape that three generations have coveted as “grandma’s Santa cookie.” Needless to say, my friend is worried.
Joanne is still physically able to bake, but she’s depressed. It a common problem and one of which children of aging parents should be aware. According to the experts, holiday traditions can bring an increase in clinical depression because everything wonderful about the season (Christmas carols, cookie making, tree decorating…) trigger memories of the past and what has been lost. There are many articles about this on the Web, but here’s one I would like to suggest every child of an aging parent to read.
Heart disease and cancer are still the big killers of adults over 65, but close behind is a secret killer – falling. According to the CDC, a third of this age group will fall this year and never tell their doctor they did. Many will suffer hip fractures and head traumas, or other injuries that increase the risk of early death.
Those that don’t keep the fall a secret – more than 2.4 million – will be treated in emergency rooms, and over 700,000 will be hospitalized. Over 25,000 will die from their fall. And most of them will be men.
The direct medical costs alone for all these falls will be over $30 billion dollars. And as usual, we are all footing the bill in higher insurance rates and municipal taxes.
So what can we do? Talk to our elders and share what we know:
- Regular exercise that focuses on leg strength improves balance. Tai Chi is especially good.
- Medicines need to be reviewed with the prescribing doctor or pharmacist for possible side effects like dizziness or drowsiness.
- Regular eye exams are important, and single vision glasses are best for walking or outside activities.
- Simple things can make homes safer. Like grab bars in the bathroom, railings on both sides of stairways, better lighting, and nothing important stored in an overhead cabinet that needs a stepstool for access.
- Homes are haven for hazards like ill-placed electrical cords, loose throw rugs, carpet edges, pet toys on the floor, loose railings on stairs and porches, uneven flooring — anything that can be tripped over or that could throw off a person’s balance.
It also pays to be proactive. Lower hip fracture risk with adequate calcium and vitamin D, weight bearing exercise on a regular basis, and get screened (and treated if necessary) for osteoporosis.
With awareness and a few practical life changes, we can make the world a safer, healthier place for our loved ones.