Giving your parents the gift of health during the holidays

-Dr.Dianne McCallister, Chief Medical Officer at Centura's Porter Adventist Hospital

As we get together with our families, whom we sometimes do not see, it is an opportunity to become closer and show our love to one another. 

As our parents and other relatives age, we also have the opportunity to share the gift of health.

It is a good idea to begin incorporating discussions about health into our families early - before there is an urgent need. 

I suggest that the parents or older family members initiate these conversations - about living wills, power of attorney, and let their children know what their wishes are - it is a gift to your children - and yourself.

Other critical information everyone should write down and share with trusted relatives:

  • Names and contact numbers of physicians
  • Allergies
  • Medications we are taking - including supplements
  • Major illnesses being treated
  • Past surgeries

These facts can be crucial in an emergency.

Gifts help family members stay healthy


  1. A puzzle or new book to helps keep memory sharp
  2. A safety proofing of their home. Grab bars, better lighting, removal of throw rugs and checking stairways to make sure the railings are sturdy
  3. Hand weights and ankle weights with a book of simple exercises - or a class at a local gym. Strength and balance training help prevent falls
  4. A monthly fruit gift - or grocery store cards - to help include fresh fruits in the diet
  5. If you live close - the gift of regular visits
  6. A coupon book for help with tasks such as cleaning gutters or washing windows to keep them off of ladders

Simple things to keep in mind when visiting elderly relatives

First - before you visit - make sure that you have had your flu shot - you can spread flu for 3 days prior to having symptoms.
Once you arrive:

  1.  Be aware of their looks - are their clothes clean - are they losing weight?  These could be signs they need more support at home, or cannot afford nutritious food
  2. We all misplace keys, glasses and other items - but if they are disoriented or get lost in familiar places, this could be a sign that they are developing memory problems or are overmedicated
  3. If they are unsteady, they may need to be evaluated for vitamin deficiencies, strengthening exercises or an assistive device - or again, a problem with medications
  4. Is their home safe?  As we grow older it is more important to remove area rugs, have good lighting throughout the home, and have grab bars in bathrooms.  
  5. If they live alone - who is checking on them?  How will they get help if they fall or have an emergency?


Dr. McCallister is on 7NEWS at 11 a.m. every Wednesday. If you have a topic or question you would like her to discuss, email .

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