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Thursday, September 12, 2024

Be Sure to Check on Your Aging Relatives

Years ago my favorite great-aunt died. She and her husband never had kids of their own but bestowed their love upon a dozen or so nieces and nephews. They were a fun couple and a visit to their house, located on a golf course, was always filled with fun and mystery. There was a small water-hazard pond and you can imagine how amazing it was for a kid to see a diver in full wet-suit emerge in the middle of the pond like Loch Ness, retrieving errant golf balls.

Not that my mother was a bad cook, but a visit to “Auntie Ree’s” always included an amazing dinner served on her finest china. To treat our family of eight like such treasured guests has made a lifelong impact on me. When visiting our house, my aunt was famous for her long “good-byes.” It would take her at least twenty minutes to make the rounds hugging and kissing us, and giving her patented slaps on the cheek. To this day, when leaving a party, someone in my family will utter my uncle’s famous, “say goodnight, Mrs. Campbell,” when trying to minimize the length of the “good-bye”.

When my great-aunt passed away, my uncle, like a lot of men in that generation, was lost. We would still visit him, of course, but it wasn’t the same. When we noticed dishes piling up in the sink, we would offer to help. He always told us that the maid would be coming soon. Eventually, however, we discovered that there was no maid.

We felt awkward and didn’t want to impose. In retrospect, we were derelict not to impose. Here are some lessons we learned:

  1. Keep in touch with your elderly friends and relatives.
  2. Remember that they are probably too proud to ask for or accept help.
  3. If one of the spouses dies, be extra vigilant on behalf of the surviving spouse.
  4. Watch for any signs of health troubles or housekeeping issues.
  5. Watch for a significant swelling of the ankles (this happened to my great-uncle), a sign of heart disease.
  6. Remember that food is love (as demonstrated by Auntie Ree); bring over a meal, or several pre-cooked meals that can be frozen and used later.
  7. Proper nutrition is important but so is a visit. Bring old photos along to reminisce.
  8. The loving thing to do is to impose yourself on the situation, in spite of protestations that no help is needed.

Bill Lowe, CMSS President (

Chicago Senior Living
Assisted Living in Chicago

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