Holiday Family Reunions Create an Excellent Opportunity to Assess Elder Parents’ Well-being

family gathered around dining room table during the winter holidays


November marks the beginning of the holiday season for most Americans. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s all create opportunities to reconnect with loved ones we may not have seen during the rest of the year.

For many of us, the winter holiday season may be the only time we see our parents, grandparents or other older relatives. Because of this, these visits provide an excellent opportunity to check in on their well-being. Many adults realize their loved ones are beginning to show signs that they are no longer living as robustly or as safely as they have in the past. Many children go home to discover a formerly healthy parent looking thin or frail, or a once immaculate home in disarray. These can be signs that a parent may need some outside help in managing their day-to-day activities.

Here are some other warning signs to look out for while you’re visiting an elderly loved one:

  • Memory loss – Occasional forgetfulness is probably nothing to worry about, but if you see recurring instances of memory loss – including asking the same questions again and again – it may be a sign of a more serious problem.
  • Dangerous habits – Leaving the stove on, not locking the front door, taking expired medications or neglecting to turn off a garaged car are all red flags that something may be wrong.
  • An inability to move around easily – A deterioration in a loved one’s physical being can increase the chance of falls, which can, in some cases, be catastrophic.
  • Excessive clutter around the house – Piles of unopened mail, newspapers lying all over the house, clothes piling up on chairs, and unwashed dishes in the sink may indicate your loved one needs help.
  • Self-neglect – A cessation of normal personal hygiene, such as not showering or wearing the same clothes day after day, may be indicators that it’s time to step in.
  • Unusual mood swings – Changes in mood may indicate your loved one is suffering from depression or cognitive issues that may be treated with a doctor’s help.
  • Isolating themselves – If you discover your loved one has stopped seeing friends and seems to be spending more time alone, it may be a sign of a larger issue.
  • Weight loss – An unintentional decline in weight may signal the onset of disease or a side effect of medications. It can lead to a decline in the quality and length of life.
  • Lack of food– No food in the house may mean your loved has lost interest in eating or needs assistance in getting to the grocery store.
  • Expired prescription medications – Take a look in your loved one’s medicine cabinet. Point out all expired medications. If there seems to be an excess of medications, ask your loved what they’re for. If they aren’t sure, talk to your loved one’s physician and/or pharmacists to make sure the combination of drugs they’re taking are safe and necessary.

If you discover one or more of these situations, LifeCare Advocates may be able to help. We can do a formal assessment of your loved one’s well-being and make recommendations that can help. For those who live far away from their loved ones, we can be your “boots on the ground” and manage and monitor a care plan, which can include overseeing home care, accompanying loved ones to medical appointments and doing regular check-ins to ensure all is well.

Categories: Senior Health