Did you visit an elderly loved one at home this festive season? If you haven’t seen them in a while, you might have noticed a change in their physical or mental wellbeing.

As a home care provider, we find that Christmas and New Year can be a confronting time for people with ageing relatives they don’t see regularly.

If you discover your elderly loved one has become frail, either physically or mentally, don’t despair. Frailty isn’t the finish line. But it might signal the start of a new phase of life, when a little more support is required.

So what should you do?

Firstly, don’t make any decisions about your elderly loved one’s future without them. It’s important they maintain control over how they live their life.

A good place to start is having a conversation about how they want to do that…

What are their goals for the New Year? You might be surprised to learn that New Year’s resolutions are even more important for people in their 80s and 90s. Having hope for the future and milestones to work towards help to give life purpose and meaning at a time when it may feel empty.

Would they like to enter something in their local show? Join a community club? Try a new hobby or activity? Go on a sightseeing tour or start some volunteer work? There’s so much that they can do.

Once they know what their goals are, help them work out ways to achieve them. Do they need transport to get there? Do they need help making a booking online? Would putting them in touch with a friend or neighbour help?

Now they have a positive plan of action! Importantly, you’re not doing it for them, you’re helping them to do it for themselves, with support.

The next step is to talk about any pain points. What’s making their life hard or less enjoyable? Is weekly food shopping and planning a challenge? Is cleaning, gardening or cooking a chore (literally!)? Are their personal, health or mental care needs impacting their quality of life?

Again, help them create an action plan to get things back on track. A trip to their local GP may be their first port of call. A hair and nail appointment or new clothes might help to boost their self-esteem. You could also help to research online services, like food planning and delivery, and home maintenance.

Seeing what government-funded home care packages they’re eligible for is a good step. Your elderly loved one may be entitled to funding support to help pay for the services they want to receive at home. For more information on what funding support’s available, go to: www.myagedcare.gov.au.

Finally, remember to take care of yourself too! Having responsibility for caring for or supporting an elderly loved one can be really stressful and overwhelming, even if you can only do it from afar.

Talk to them about how they could expand their support network or put in place other safeguards. In-home monitoring systems can be a great comfort for you both. Smart technology can not only reduce utility bills, but can alert you to unexpected changes in their behaviour that might indicate a fall or other injury. It can also put them in touch with health care and service providers at the click of a button.

The future of home care is bright. And your elderly loved one’s life can be too.

Gy Wallace

IRT at Home CEO

The GoodLife

The GoodLife is Australia's first YouTube Channel for over 55s. It's produced by IRT Foundation to share inspiring ad-free stories about older people.

It covers eveything from encore careers, age-friendly exercise and cooking, to skydiving, salsa dancing and creative hobbies.

You can find new episodes from Season 2 online or enjoy all the action from Season 1, which premiered last year.

Tune in to The GoodLife today