Home for the Holidays: What to Look for with Older Adult Family Members

During the holiday season, many people visit their aging parents, perhaps for the first time in several months. Ann Sutton Burke, Jewish Family Service Director of Aging and Caregiving Services, wrote a guest column for the Council on Aging’s e-newsletter, addressing what changes you should look for and be concerned about. If you see some of these changes in your loved ones and aren’t sure what to do next, contact us at AgeWell Cincinnati. –June

This or any holiday season when gathering with family, take the time to look around and observe older loved ones. Do you notice any changes that indicate they may be struggling?

Has Mom lost weight? Is Dad not getting around as well as he used to? These common but often over-looked signs can be key indicators that Mom and Dad are having trouble staying independent.

Sometimes it’s hard for older loved ones to ask for help, and other times they may not even recognize that they need help. This is why it is important for us to be aware of how well older relatives are aging, and informed about when we should offer help.

Common indicators can be recognized through physical appearance and behavior changes, including:

  • Changes in weight
  • Lack of mobility
  • Unexplained bruising or injuries
  • Forgetfulness and confusion
  • Poor hygiene
  • Changes in mood/depression

If you notice that an aging relative fits one or more of these descriptions, it is important that you address it, especially if you are worried about their safety. You may be able to make a much better evaluation by visiting your loved ones’ home and looking for signs of inadequate living, such as:

  • Empty refrigerator or spoiled food
  • Stack of unpaid bills
  • New or unexplained dents in their car
  • Un-kept house
  • Obvious dangers
  • Concerns from neighbors

If you see these red flags be sure to talk to others in your family and discuss your concerns. Find out if they have noticed any changes, and listen to their thoughts and opinions. It is important to work together to ensure that senior adults are being well taken care of.

When you gently approach your loved ones with your concerns, give specific examples. Let them know that they are in control and that you are here to help them make decisions that they are comfortable with. Offer to help them choose services that they feel they could benefit from, and use the resources you have researched to guide them toward better living and as independently as possible.

Knowing your loved ones are taken care of is a gift that the whole family can enjoy. So take a moment this busy holiday season and spend time talking with your elderly relatives. Be sure to ask questions, listen when they talk, and observe their well-being, because you never know when someone may be secretly struggling.

Article contributed by Ann Sutton Burke, MPA, CMC, Advanced Aging Life Care Professional with CareLink and Director of Aging and Caregiver Services at Jewish Family Service of the Cincinnati Area. Ann can be reached at [email protected] or 513-469-1350.