Summertime - at least as close as we usually get to it - is upon us. In the information/social services arena two dynamics often occur during this time of year.

1. People seem to need less assistance, and

2. People seem to need more assistance.

Generally in the first situation, the weather's warmer, it's less taxing to be out and about and family, friends, etc., are dropping by to see the folks "at the beach." And when we're busy having fun and enjoying a break in our routine, assistance is out of our immediate concern.

The second instance above often occurs as an offshoot of the former. Family and friends have indeed come down to visit the folks at the beach and maybe it's been a while since they've seen "dad" - wow, has he changed!

I always find it interesting that we notice how much other folks have changed, but remember this: We are the "others" to someone.

Sometimes after the visiting, running around and playing is done, the family realizes that dad does seem a little slower, a little less active, a little older. How did that happen? Obviously life teaches us that as we get older we can't do everything we used to do, but with family - especially parents - we tend to keep them at a certain age. My folks were in their 40s (it seemed to me) until I was in my 30s. And even then I had to do the math to realize what their age was.

One of the cool things about information is that it's available even when we're not in crisis mode. And when the family's visiting, it's often a good time to enjoy the visit with eyes open. Keep on having fun, but be aware of what could make dad's life a little easier, a little more active, or both. And a really great way to find out what's happening is to talk to dad.

Maybe he hasn't been able to get to the Elks, Lions, etc., and really misses doing that - especially in the winter months when things aren't quite so active. Give his lodge a call and see if arrangements can be made for transportation. Maybe he'd like a membership at the local senior center so he can participate in their various activities. How's the garden doing? I've had a lot of family fun just pulling weeds and getting gardens in order. Then when you leave, dad can take care of it. Is he unable to get to church? Usually with a quick phone call you find someone who would be happy to pick dad up on their way in.

See, it isn't all about walkers, wheelchairs, ramps and grab-bars - but if helpful they can make a huge difference in dad's (and Mom's) independence! And it isn't all about end-of-life issues. It's about dad. It's about his life and where he is right now. Activities and hobbies go a long way toward living healthy longer. And it's worth repeating: Talk to dad. It's his life, but you can be not only a great visitor, but a great help. Information flows both ways - it's called communication.

And enjoy the summer!

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