Going home for the holiday season can be overwhelming when you have a senior parent. You may worry about how they are managing life on their own. Regular daily tasks can get to be too much as one ages and lives independently. When you don't live close to a parent who is aging, it can often be difficult to truly see how they are physically and mentally doing. Visiting your parents during the holiday season can be an excellent opportunity to gauge their condition. Here are some key signs to look for that something may be wrong to ensure your loved one is safe and healthy:

How is their appearance?

Look for noticeable changes in their appearance compared to the last time that you saw them. Have they lost weight? Are they washing their clothing? Are they regularly bathing? Are there any unexplained bruises? Are they remembering to take their medications? Watch how they are walking and getting up from sitting. Physical limitations can often be the reason for a noticeable change. Sometimes loss of memory can cause one to forget to bathe, eat, or change their clothing. If a parent is unable to perform basic independent living activities, they may need an in-home aide or a change in living on their own.

How is the cleanliness of their home?

One shouldn't expect their parent to have a perfect home. However, changes in the living conditions can be easy red flags to look for when it comes to seeing how your loved one is. Are they remembering to throw away expired or spoiled groceries? Do they need assistance with maintenance on the house or yard? Do they have appliances that have broken and have not been fixed? Look for signs in the cleanliness in the home where they may be physically limited in caring for.

Check their mail out.

Look to see if there are piles of unopened mail, especially bills. A common beginning sign of dementia is trouble managing finances. Do they have checks that have bounced? Another common sign of dementia is difficulty in making decisions. Senior citizens are often targeted and vulnerable to scams.

How is their driving?

Look for signs for careless driving. Check for dents or damage to their car and in the garage. Seniors with dementia can often forget to use their seatbelt. If possible, assess their driving. Look for tailgating, mixing up the gas and brake pedals, or driving too slow. This is also a good opportunity to check their antifreeze, if they need an oil change, and their windshield-wiper fluid.

If their health or their emotions does not seem to be well, it may be time to have a conversation about the current problems. Here are some further resources related to this topic:

Helping Seniors Maintain Independence

Having “The Talk” About a Move to Assisted Living

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