When a Holiday Visit Leads to Concern

When it’s been a while since you’ve seen someone, the changes can be noticeable. Maybe they are a little thinner (or heavier). Maybe they’ve changed their hairstyle or style of dress. But when the holiday visit is to a senior parent, subtle changes can signal much more.

Here are some things to look for:

  • Change in behavior. If they always were a stickler for a neat house and it’s no longer that way. If they always kept a close eye on finances and now have unpaid bills or late notices. These could be signs of physical or mental decline.
  • Weight loss. This may signal that there is a serious illness—or that they are not prioritizing nutrition. Also, notice scorched pans; this may mean they forget things on the stove.
  • Difficulty getting around. They may have balance issues or be in pain. Falls are a significant risk for seniors.
  • Their surroundings. Are there hazards that can be repaired, such as dark hallways or loose rugs? Take the time to make these simple changes while you are there. AARP has a handy checklist at aarp.org/homedesign.
  • Their transportation. If they are still driving, look around the vehicle for dents and dings. And have them take you to the grocery store in the car, so you can observe their skills. You might also assess transportation options for when the time comes to give up their car. How will they shop? Get to religious services? Medical appointments? Doing some of the legwork when it’s not a crisis can be helpful when the crisis arrives.
  • Their medications. It may be good to compile a list of all their medications. Keep a copy and leave one with them. It may be needed in a medical emergency. Also, check the dates of their prescriptions. If anything is outdated, dispose of it at a proper drop off site. Do not flush it down the toilet. (Check with your local police department or pharmacy if you need a starting place.)
  • Their emotional well-being. Do they seem depressed or withdrawn? Depression is common in the elderly, but it also can be a sign of a physical illness.

It may feel like this holiday season is more Sherlock than Santa, but paying attention to details can help identify changes in your parents—and provide the beginning of a solution.



AARP (http://www.aarp.org/about-aarp/press-center/info-12-2010/holiday_tips.html)
AgingCare.com (https://www.agingcare.com/articles/holiday-visits-with-elderly-parents-136906.htm)
Minneapolis Star Tribune (http://www.startribune.com/home-for-the-holidays-with-aging-parents-some-red-flags/285392241/)
Today (http://www.today.com/health/holiday-caregiving-surprise-when-mom-or-dad-slipping-away-1D80310055)