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For families, the holiday season is meant to be a time of coming together and creating new memories. Which is why so many senior living communities work to ensure their residents are able to attend seasonal family gatherings. However, as our loved ones age, health and mobility concerns can add new stresses for holiday get-togethers.
“When residents leave their communities, they’re leaving behind caregivers and familiar settings that help them function day to day,” says Angie Sylvan, Director of Clinical Quality and Development at EmpowerMe Wellness. “That can be quite stressful. And it can also be stressful for their adult children, who are not always used to functioning as caregivers.”
Creating the Checklist
To make the holidays more relaxing for everyone involved, Angie and the Clinical Support team at EmpowerMe developed a “Home for the Holidays” checklist. Our therapists use this tool to help residents make sure they are prepared for obstacles they may encounter on visits our trips to family members’ homes.
What Does the Checklist Cover?
- Car transfers. EmpowerMe therapists focus on entering and exiting personal vehicles, which can be challenging for residents who may use a walker or for those accustomed to traveling in the community’s vans or buses equipped with wheelchair lifts.
- Chair transfers. Getting off of low and soft surfaces like couches, may be more challenging than standing up from sturdy armchairs found in senior communities.
- Navigating narrow doorways. While senior living communities feature ADA-compliant doorways, not every home is built with wheelchairs and walkers in mind.
- Environmental obstacles. Throw rugs, electronic cables, and family pets are a few potential tripping hazards.
- Staying warm. Making sure seniors can put on a coat or take off a pair of gloves by themselves can prevent discomfort and help them maintain their dignity.
How is the Checklist Used?
EmpowerMe Wellness team members use the checklist as a regular part of their therapy visits with residents on caseload. If the resident plans to attend a family gathering, their therapists will work through the checklist with them to identify areas of need and help them practice activities that are difficult for them.
For residents who are not on caseload with EmpowerMe, the checklist offers a quick and friendly opportunity for EmpowerMe therapists or community team members to begin important conversations about safety.
“Let’s say the wellness director in the community knows Mrs. Smith is going home with her family, and he has some concerns about her mobility,” says Angie Sylvan. “He can talk through the checklist with Mrs. Smith, or with Mrs. Smith’s family, to make sure that family visit trip is as successful as possible.”
A Holiday Hit
The checklist has been a real success for EmpowerMe teams at communities across the country. “We always get really good feedback about the checklist from our therapists, and families really like it,” Angie says. “Going through the checklist often helps residents to realize potential issues they may not have considered. And at the end of the day, that means more families coming together for the holidays, and who doesn’t love that?”