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Guide for holiday check-ins

Aging Well | Wellness | November 15, 2021
Family eats meal at table
Check in with older loved ones about their health this holiday season.

For reasons that vary from shame, misplaced optimism or simply being unaware, some older people can hold back on health-related concerns that should receive attention.

Being proactive in communicating with a parent, grandparent or another elder in your life can help catch warning signs about illnesses or other issues early.

It may feel a little awkward to ask questions at first, but the effort is ultimately good for both you and them.

Check out this guide for having important health discussions with loved ones during the holiday season, including suggested questions to ask and how to ask them.

Starter questions:

  • "I wanted to check in and see how you're doing. How have you been feeling lately?"
  • "It's really important that you keep up with annual physicals or checkups with specialists. Have you seen your doctor recently?"
  • "When was the last time you had your blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes number, and weight measures taken? These are all key risk factors for many diseases, including heart disease."
  • "Have you noticed any new health concerns recently that you haven't talked to someone about yet? I just want to make sure you're taking care of yourself."
  • "I've noticed something about your health that concerns me, and I want to make sure you're okay."
  • "It's great that you got your COVID-19 vaccination. Have you gotten your booster shot? "
  • "It's very important that everyone gets their flu vaccine this year. Have you gotten yours yet?"
  • "How have you been doing with [insert ailment]? Have you consulted a doctor about it recently?"
  • "I was reading heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US. Do you know your heart disease risk? Have you talked with your doctor about your risk?"­
  • "The past year has been stressful and isolating for many. Are you getting out/seeing people/keeping up with your hobbies?"
  • "Sleep is really important for our health. How have you been sleeping lately?"
  • "Have you been taking your medications regularly? What meds are you taking?"
  • Are you eating regularly? Are you eating a healthy diet full of vegetables and low in saturated fats?"
  • "A little exercise is important to improving our general health. Are you exercising regularly?"
  • "How are your glasses/hearing aids? Are they still working well? Can you see/hear as well as when you first got them?"
  • "I want to make sure we follow your wishes. Do you have an advanced medical directive or living will? Does your doctor have a copy?"

Tips for the conversation:

  • Approach your loved one with deep respect and sincere concern. If you come across as a scold or a know-it-all, he or she could become defensive, which can defeat your purpose.
  • Be prepared for a groan or eye roll in response but ask anyway.
  • Tell the truth if you've seen something that concerns you.
  • Avoid sounding accusatory or belittling.
  • Avoid saying "you should" and other words that make it sound like you know better or that you're giving orders.
  • Don't be prescriptive — let the healthcare professionals do that.
  • Offer to help them schedule an appointment or give them a ride to their appointment(s).
  • Follow up later about what was discussed to see how things are going and what steps still need to be taken.
  • Consider sharing things you are doing personally for your own well-being — just try to avoid any subjects that might cause them to worry unnecessarily.
  • If their health issue is hereditary in nature, take note. Give them a chance to be the knowledgeable or experienced one in the conversation. Ask what works for them to manage the condition. You could learn from this family health history and what you could or should be doing for your own health.

Download our Checkup Checklist to help make sure you answer all of the pertinent questions when talking with a loved one about their healthcare.

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