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Planning makes yard parties fun for everyone
Senior moments
Rich DeLong is the executive director of Station Exchange Senior Care. - photo by File photo

Just about everyone looks forward to gathering with family and friends for the backyard barbecue. Although the weather this past weekend might have put a damper on your Memorial Day festivities, there will be many more opportunities for cookouts this summer.

It is important to remember to take certain precautions before taking mom and dad to your backyard party. Both you and your elderly loved one can have a fine time if you plan ahead.

First, make sure that your relative is in good health to attend a party where there will be heat, bugs, noise, smoke from the grill and possibly rambunctious children. Also, check with your hosts to ensure that they understand and can accommodate your loved one’s limitations. Ask questions regarding stairs, bathroom availability and pets.

You may also want to hire a caregiver to attend the party with your loved one so everyone can enjoy the event.

Joan Wright, a certified geriatric manager at NVNA and Hospice in Norwell, Massachusetts, reminds us that every elderly person was once young, mobile and eager to socialize.

"Those desires are still there, even if their physical capacity to fulfill them is not."

So try these tips from Wright to help ensure that everyone has a good time.

Before the barbecue

• Talk to the host or hostess about dietary limitations your elderly relative may have. If the menu is too spicy, fatty or hard to chew, plan to bring some food the senior can eat, and be sure that the meal will be served at the same time as everyone else’s.

• Find out what sort of seating the hosts will have for guests. If they have just backless picnic benches, which can be difficult for an elderly person to sit on and provide no back support, ask if you can bring a folding chair or stackable plastic chair.

• If your relative is in a wheelchair, find out in advance if your hosts’ gates are wide enough and slopes gentle enough to maneuver it into the backyard.

• Ask if there’s any shade in the backyard; if not, ask if you can also bring a portable beach umbrella.

• Lay out comfortable clothes that include layers because some seniors feel cold even when it’s warm out. Include sturdy shoes to prevent trips and falls.

• Before you go, make sure everyone has put on some sunscreen.

At the barbecue

• Set up a spot for your relative away from the hot grill and any areas where children are likely to be playing.

• Find out the location of the closest bathroom. If your relative needs assistance using the restroom, you might want to arrange a discreet hand sign or code word so you can excuse yourself to help without embarrassing him or her.

• If your loved one can’t get around much but is sociable, bring other partygoers over for brief chats.

• Since dehydration can be a problem with elderly people, make sure a glass of water is always at hand. Avoid or limit alcoholic beverages, which are not only dehydrating but also can conflict with medications.

• If you must cut some meat off a bone or corn off of a cob, do it in the kitchen and then bring the plate to the senior. Cutting up food in front of other partygoers puts the senior in an embarrassing, child-like position.

• Watch your loved one for signs of restlessness, overheating or other distress, and be prepared to leave before the festivities end.

Planning is the key so everyone can have fun!

Call DeLong at 912-531-7867 or email him at SeniorMomentsWith\

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