Visiting with family over the holiday season is typically a good time to check on the health and safety of an elderly loved one. Each year, The Arbor Company circulates a checklist to help families access a senior parent in terms of health, safety, socialization, and memory to determine if and when it is time to seek additional care. This year in the face of the pandemic, families will have to amend this process as many factors have changed.
In our next Senior Living LIVE! Home for the Holidays webinar, we will be hearing from a panel of experts, residents and family members about things to look for when visiting family over the holiday season, and when the time is right to move to senior living. As a preview to the full-length webinar, host Melissa Lee had a brief chat with Laura Ellen Christian from The Arbor Company. In the recording below, they discuss the different ways families can still access loved ones when not able to visit in person, as well as how Arbor communities are adapting this holiday season to still make those deep connections with residents that are so important all year long.
You can click the recording to watch the preview now, and make sure to register for the full webinar to learn more and have your questions answered live by our Home for the Holidays panel.
- Hello everyone and welcome in to Senior Living Live. My name is Melissa. I have the wonderful Laura Ellen Christian joining me here today. Laura Ellen, how are you?
- I'm good, Melissa, how are you doing?
- I'm doing great, and if you can believe it, we're already in the holiday season.
- I know.
- It's been a long year for a lot of people, though, but we're coming down the home stretch, and we're coming to a time of year that will probably look very different than past years. You will be a part of a panel of experts that can sort of help guide us through the upcoming holiday season. It will be you and Keaton, Susan O'Hare, and you'll be a part of a webinar, Home For The Holidays, Thursday, November 19th at 3:00 PM Eastern time. So in the past, the Arbor Company has had a Home For The Holidays checklist where you can assess a senior parent their health, their environment during the holidays, from checking on health, safety, socialization, memory, and that checklist sort of has to be modified now for COVID. Laura Ellen, can you still get a good comprehensive health and wellness check on your loved one this year when you might not even be able to visit them?
- Yeah, it's a great question, Melissa, and I think the answer is yes. We just have to be more creative, and maybe more intentional around how we're spending the time with our loved ones. So embracing technology, a lot of us have already done that. We're well on our way to knowing how we can use technology now to help us. So if you're not able to be with your loved one in person, then you've probably already figured out a way to engage with Zoom or FaceTime or other things. And then I think there are people that are close by to your loved ones, so if you can't be there with them, who else is in their circle, in their bubble, if you will, that a lot of people have created during this time so that you can leverage your relationship with that person, and that person's relationship with their loved one to make sure that you're working together to figure out what what's going well, and maybe what are some concerns that you all can partner on?
- Yeah, and in this situation, we're really talking about loved ones who are who are elderly, in the senior group category, who may be living at home right now, and you're wondering is it time to receive additional care? So on that end, if your parent is already receiving additional care at a senior living community, what are some of the plans that Arbor communities have made or are making right now for this particular holiday season?
- Yeah, well, I think that we're trying to really think about and hold true to what are the traditions of that community, right? There's been so much change, so much uncertainty, and people might be looking forward to some familiarity during the holidays and wanting to engage in that, but we've got to think about it a little differently. So we're thinking about our traditions that we have in our communities, and then thinking about how can we uphold those traditions and that same feeling, but in ways that keep people safe, as well as bring them that joy. So that might be extending the holiday period, right? Christmas isn't just one day anymore. It's really thinking about when can we have these moments of celebration the way that we've always done in smaller ways, but that might mean stretching it out over a couple of weeks and making sure people are aware of that and are feeling comfortable around that. The other ways is thinking about deep connections. So the Arbor Company has always been so great of a company to really be anchored in deep connections. And so leveraging that for this year and making sure that we're thinking of each person and how we can help those people in our communities maintain those connections virtually or in other safe ways so that the joy does not become undermined by the safety focus.
- Yeah, and if you're looking for on the side of a wellness check and maybe how is my loved one in a senior living community, you talk about that close bubble, you've got a lot of professionals that are on your side to help you on that, yes?
- That's right, yes. We are an extended family, right? That's how we want families to look at us, and we definitely operate in that way and feel that deep connection to not only our residents, but to their family, so we are an extension of the family.
- How critical is that time after the holidays for our seniors who may be facing diminished socialization anyways, already due to COVID?
- Yeah, it's so important. We all know the term, the winter blues, and that is so relevant and connected to all of us, especially our elders. So you have the hype of the holidays where you might have more people coming to visit, more things to engage in, so we need to really be focused on what happens after the holidays. What brought your loved one the most joy, did you observe during the holidays? How can you keep that going in new and different ways after the holidays? What was concerning for you, right? And how can you act on that quickly? Because one thing that is important to note, especially during the holidays, is for all of us, right, our brains release a lot of endorphin, and so that can cause us to act and engage in a higher way than normal, and then you have the let down, right? And so we want to make sure that we're taking action so that we're being proactive in how we're surrounding our loved ones with care and with that socialization, and not letting us creep into a moment of crisis decision-making, which is always more traumatic than something that is preventative, but maybe a little more difficult to talk about in that time. So making sure we're really taking action soon after whether it's surrounding someone with more joy or having some hard, but really needed conversations of additional care that someone might need.
- That is a great answer. Thank you so much. And you'll be able to share that, of course, during our webinar as well. And we know we'll have quite a few questions on that end, but on the gift giving front, so this is sort of fun. You can still give gifts, and if you love giving gifts, it doesn't matter if we have a pandemic or not, you still have the ability to do that. So what are some tips you can give to someone who maybe has a parent that already has everything?
- Yeah, gift giving can be so stressful no matter who you're giving gifts to, and more and more these days, right, people have what they need, so you're trying to think about what can I give? So what I would really recommend is people reflect back, think about a gift that you received that was really special to you, and think about not the thing that you received, but think about what it resembled for you, and apply that gift giving strategy to your loved one. So think about what maybe will connect in with them on a deep level, on a personal level. Some of my favorite go-tos for the person that has everything are homemade gifts, right? That really can show some of that caring and connection. And then also things that maybe are more experience driven, that can have some lasting memories connected to it. And you can never go wrong with gifts that incorporate family photos.
- Absolutely, I agree with that 100%. So that will help relieve some stress for somebody, I'm sure, just listening to that, but what is the top piece of advice that you can give those watching now relating to the holidays?
- Yeah, my top advice is really don't forget the reason for the season. Being present might be the best present that you can give someone. As we have been in 2020, it's been a year of so much angst and change and uncertainty, so really, don't forget that reason for the holidays. And for many of us, for most of us, the reason is to create those connections with people, spend quality time, so think about that. How can you be truly present with your loved one? And that might be all the present they need this year.
- I love it. Laura Ellen Christian, I look forward to hearing more from you and the rest of our panel for our Home For The Holidays webinar. It will be November 19th at 3:00 PM Eastern time. For today, I thank you for your time.