This year, as we embark on holiday trips to see our parents and grandparents, I’d like to offer a thought. If your loved ones are over 65, please take a moment to really check on them while you’re there.

How are they doing? Are they keeping physically active and getting around OK? Is their hygiene good, home winterized and warm, refrigerator stocked, prescriptions well-marked and being taken? How is their memory? Note everything you see and hear and if something seems amiss, ask them about it. If there’s a concern, gently encourage them to get help, see a doctor, or help them yourself if that works better. Wisconsin’s aging and disability resource centers can also be an excellent resource, along with non-profit organizations that deal with issues like mental health and Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Are their vaccinations current? Two vaccine preventable diseases common to seniors in winter months are the flu and pneumonia. The flu is tough to shake once contracted and pre-existing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, congestive heart failure and diabetes put seniors at higher risk of pneumonia. Sadly, more than half of Wisconsinites 65+ skip these vaccinations. Getting our loved ones immunized can make a difference.

I realize these aren’t typical gifts found under a tree, but given with love and care, they may just help ensure many more holidays to come.

Rob Gundermann

Madison, WI

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