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Beacon Senior News

Special holiday reminders for staying safe and healthy

Dec 02, 2019 04:15PM ● By Teresa Ambord

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of the holidays and accidentally overlook some important details that help ensure you and those in your care stay safe and healthy during the holidays. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Seniors want your presence

A lot of people have mixed feelings about holidays, but it’s often more true for seniors. While they love to see or at least hear from family and friends, the holidays also remind them of lost loved ones, and inclement weather might cause them to feel more isolated, especially if they can’t travel to celebrate with you.

If possible, please visit your elderly friends and family more often during the winter to help ward off depression. If you can’t spend time with them during the holidays, be sure to call them and remind others to call them as well.

Are you a caregiver?

Don’t hesitate to accept help offered by family members when it comes to caregiving duties or meal preparation. Accepting help can make the holidays better for everyone. If you’re “on duty” 24 hours a day and suddenly your great-niece offers to play cards with Grandpa while you take a nap…do it!

Traveling long distances by car?

Build extra time into the travel plan to help reduce stress. Pick a route that’s the most senior-friendly in terms of bathroom and food stops. If someone needs frequent healthy snacks, keep a close eye on him or her and make sure they have what they need as soon as they need it.

In my family, my stepmom did much of the driving after Dad’s health began to fail. Even when she drove, she kept a close eye on Dad, who sat in the backseat. She’d nudge me now and then and say with urgency, “Give your dad a cookie, quick!” She’d brought a large supply of healthier cookies that he loved, and when she’d see his mood start to go south, she’d give him one. Problem solved.

Beware of cold weather scams

As winter holidays get closer and temperatures drop, thieves see an opportunity. The “shutoff swindle” has utility companies warning customers to be alert. If you or an elderly relative lives alone, especially in a state where it’s likely to get really cold, be sure everyone knows what to watch for.

The scam generally occurs by phone. Your caller ID may make it appear that the call is coming from your utility provider but that’s likely not the case. The caller informs you that you have a past-due bill and your utilities are about to be shut off, unless you pay immediately. He or she may try to get you to pay by credit card, suggest you go out and purchase a prepaid card to pay the bill or demand cash, and say a company employee will be sent to your home to pick up the payment. The caller may offer to waive late-payment penalties in exchange for cash payment.

Perhaps even more frightening is a version of the scam that starts when a fake employee shows up at your door to collect an “overdue bill.” Another version takes place online where they email you a fake bill with an inflated amount that appears genuine, such as a logo copied from your utility provider.

What should you do?

Most utility companies will contact you by mail, at least once and possibly several times. If you receive a call claiming that you have a past-due bill and demanding payment, hang up. Then look up the utility company’s phone number yourself and call to make sure. Do not use the phone number provided by the caller.

Rest assured, a bona fide utility company will NOT send someone to your home to collect payment unannounced. And if two people show up at your door claiming to be there to collect a past-due bill or to check your furnace, chances are they’re there to burglarize your home. Obviously, refuse them entry, secure the doors and immediately alert the police.