Signs to Look For as You Visit Your Elderly Parents this Holiday Season

Photo of multi-generational family during the holidays

Families across the county will celebrate the holiday season together. Adult children can learn how their aging parents are faring during the holidays and pick up on any troubling signs. During this holiday season, look for these signs that maybe things aren’t going as well as they should for Mom and Dad.

Be on the lookout for physical changes

Some physical features may raise potential red flags about a person’s health. Weight loss is one such sign. Having difficulty shopping for food or cooking for themselves can also indicate that a parent has problems. In contrast, weight gain can mean injury, diabetes, or even dementia, if a person forgets to eat and eats the same meals repeatedly.

The increase in frailty is also noteworthy. You might want to consider whether your parent is shuffling more than previously, having trouble balancing, or having trouble getting in and out of chairs.

What has changed about your parent’s personal hygiene? Be aware of how their hair and makeup look if they suffer from a physical ailment or memory loss. Watch for body odors, as well as the cleanliness of your parent’s clothing.

Look over the house

Ensure that there are no expired foods in the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets. Even with the best of intentions, we all forget to throw away the cans on the back shelf, but make sure these items are not consumed. A shopping list that contains multiples of certain ingredients – such as ten jars of mayonnaise – could indicate that your parent is not running the list correctly.

Check any appliances that need repair, especially if you see something your parent used regularly but seems to have fallen out of use. You should also look for signs of past kitchen fires, which are a common danger for older people.

Check out the living areas. Are they neat and clean? Have they become more cluttered? Tripping hazards aside, too much clutter can make your parents’ home more challenging to maintain as well.

Look for neglect outside as well. Does the porch look piled high with newspapers, or is the mailbox overflowing with mail? Check for unrepaired fences, overgrown gutters, or evidence of leaking roofs or siding.

Taking a drive is a good idea

If your parent is still driving, have them take you for a spin. You should check outside your car for signs of careless driving, such as dents and scratches. Inside the vehicle, check the dashboard warning lights, which indicate inattention to maintenance. Do your parents buckle your seatbelt every time you get in the car? Does your parent exhibit any signs of impaired driving? A few examples include being easily distracted, having a slow reaction time, tailgating too closely, or confusing the brake and gas pedals.

Examine the mail

Checking your parents’ mail can help you determine whether they are staying on top of daily tasks. Find any unopened mail from friends and relatives they usually wouldn’t ignore. Check bank statements, credit card bills, and insurance receipts as well. These institutions may raise red flags if they send letters about late payments, overdrawn accounts, or increased insurance premiums in response to accidents.
Take note of the types of charities that are sending mail to your parents since older people may be especially vulnerable to solicitors. Watch for thank-you cards for recent donations. Memory loss causes parents to repeatedly give to the same charities without remembering to do so.

Visit the neighbors

Whenever you speak to people in your parents’ social circle, notice if you hear a general note of concern. You may want to ask your parents if they are as socially active as they used to be or if socializing has become less frequent. Also, find out if your parents have told their friends about health problems or chores at home that they haven’t told you about. It can also be helpful to talk with friends and neighbors about how you can help your parents.

This year, while you’re home for the holidays, consider assessing the well-being of those you love and thinking about starting a critical conversation with them about their wellbeing.

If you feel it’s time to consider assisted living, please contact Three Three Vista for a tour.