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December 19, 2007 > Giving the gift of comfort

Giving the gift of comfort

Submitted By Jennifer Abrams, CSA, CHES

In today's society, demanding work schedules and geographic constraints make the holidays one of the few times during the year for the entire family to come together. For a season that is supposed to be filled with love and merriment, many adult children living away are surprised and dismayed to see how their parents' quality of life has deteriorated in their absence. In fact, January has become the busiest month for new clients for Jennifer & Jessica Abrams, owners of the non-medical, in-home companion service Comfort Keepers in Fremont, Pleasanton, and Walnut Creek. For those visiting aging relatives this season, the Abrams sisters suggest keeping an eye out for these five signs that may mean your loved one could use additional care:

1. Open Your Eyes:
When you see your relative for the first time, pay close attention to their appearance. If relatives who were always neat and put together are now displaying mismatched clothing, poor hygiene or a noticeable increase or decrease in weight, it could mean that they are having difficulty with tasks they could once complete with ease and need assistance.

2. Listen Up:
Engage your relative in a conversation and really listen to their responses. If they are having trouble remembering names, formulating sentences or pronouncing their words properly, don't just assume the cause is "old age." The earlier help is gotten, the better.

3. Take a Whiff:
If you step into your relative's home and are met with an unfamiliar or unpleasant odor, investigate the source. Smells coming from the refrigerator may signify old or expired products while those from the garbage could attract insects and vermin or serve as a catalyst for bacterial growth. Check all surfaces for the appearance of excess dust, as too much may be making breathing easily anything but.

4. See What's Cooking:
If your relative is preparing a meal for the celebration at their home, check the expiration date on all ingredients they are planning to use as well as on any medications they are taking. Observing how your loved one moves about the kitchen is also important; noting erratic actions around potentially dangerous appliances like the stove or garbage disposal could prevent an unnecessary injury.

5. Extend Your Reach:
When you shake your loved one's hand, is their grip firm? When you embrace them in a hug, do you consume their frail frame? If the former is true, the culprit could be arthritis; the latter may be evidence of an unbalanced diet. Both should be addressed immediately before conditions worsen.

If you won't be able to make it home for the holidays this year, Abrams says Comfort Keepers can also help fill the void by providing your loved one with companionship and assistance in completing the following seasonal tasks:

Finding the Perfect Gift: Provide the caregiver with a list of gifts your children or other relatives would enjoy so that they can accompany your loved one shopping. This eliminates the stress on your loved one because they will know the gifts they are giving will be met with a smile.

Wrapping It Up:
Gift wrapping is a detailed, time-consuming task for anyone but for an elderly person with deteriorating motor skills, it can take even longer. Your relative's caregiver can not only purchase the proper supplies (paper, ribbon, tape, scissors) but assist with the tedious measuring, cutting and folding.

Sending Some Cheer:
For elders with large extended families, addressing individual holiday cards can be somewhat overwhelming. With the help of a caregiver, your relative will be able to label and send out their greetings in a fraction of the time.

Decking the Halls:
Whether untangling lights or trimming the tree, an extra set of hands is always welcome in the decorating process. Having that added assistance reaching high places or carrying boxes is the best way to prevent an unnecessary mishap.

Preparing a Feast:
The kitchen is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house so making sure your relative is safe while in it should be a top priority. A companion can assist with a myriad of tasks including chopping, mixing, basting and seasoning while making sure all food is cooked through and ready to eat.

Comfort Keepers, please call (510) 790-9555 or (925) 469-9555 or visit

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