December 4, 2018

Shot of younger woman's hands holding hands of elderly woman

During the holidays, many families will travel from near and far to celebrate the season together. These family gatherings are a perfect time to observe your aging parents and determine if they may need some extra help, especially if it’s been a while since you last visited. Here are some helpful things you can do while you’re “home for the holidays” to evaluate your aging parents’ health, safety, and wellbeing.

Watch for warning signs

During the holidays, look for any subtle or obvious differences in your parents’ behavior, memory, or appearance since the last time you visited. For example, have your parents lost or gained a significant amount of weight? Are they exhibiting strange new behaviors, such as repeating stories or forgetting names? Do you notice any changes in their usual grooming habits or personal hygiene? Take note of anything that seems “off” – it may be a red flag that your parents need some additional help.

Evaluate home safety hazards

If you have the chance to visit your parents’ home over the holidays, pay attention to the safety of their surroundings. Is their home in need of repairs or updates? While you visit, consider making some basic safety modifications to their home, such as installing grab bars or putting non-slip mats in the bathroom. These simple fixes may help prevent dangerous accidents in the future.

While visiting, it’s also a good idea to look for indications that your parents are unable to keep up with household chores, such as overflowing laundry hampers, dirty dishes, or piles of excess clutter. Neglecting these tasks could be a sign your parents need assistance with household responsibilities.

Start discussions about the future

With family gathered together for the holidays, it can be a good opportunity to start having meaningful conversations with your aging parents. Talk about how they are doing and ask if they are thinking about their plans for the future. Have they considered moving to a senior living community? If you’re approaching the subject of senior living for the first time, be patient and sensitive to your parents’ feelings. Your parents may feel confrontational or defensive when you first bring up your concerns, and it will likely take more than one conversation for your parents to admit they need extra help.

This holiday season, we encourage you to keep these warning signs in mind as you visit aging parents. Remember, most older adults are reluctant to ask for help, even if they know they need it. Take it upon yourself to observe, listen, and ask plenty of questions. You will be glad you did!

Even if your parents are in good health, it’s not too early to start thinking about the future. Planning ahead will allow you and your parents to make important decisions together and enjoy greater peace of mind, no matter what the future may hold.