Dec 3
Family Dinner

What to Look for When Visiting Senior Relatives This Holiday

In December, adult children and long distance caregivers travel home to celebrate the season with aging parents and relatives. For many families in the Seattle area, it’s a chance to check in and see how older loved ones are doing.

These visits are a good time to assess if a senior loved one needs more help, and evaluate whether they have everything necessary to stay safe, active, happy, and healthy.

Assessing a Seattle Senior’s Safety at Home

If you rely on phone calls to keep in touch throughout the year, an in-person visit over the holidays is an opportunity to observe senior loved ones and discuss if it’s time to move or downsize to a senior living community.

Watch for red flags in these areas when you visit senior loved ones this winter holiday:

  1. Weight Change – Don’t ignore sudden weight loss. It can signal serious medical problems including depression, dementia, and gastrointestinal problems according to Mayo Clinic. Weight gain or loss may also be a result of arthritis or other mobility problems that limit an older adult’s ability to cook and care for themselves.
  2. Balance – Trouble walking makes it difficult for seniors to live independently and increases the risk for falls. Watch how well your loved one moves. Pay special attention to their gait. Are they intentionally avoiding stairs, sitting excessively, or otherwise unsteady on their feet?
  3. Mood – Ask older relatives about their friends and how often they socialize with others. Check that they are in good spirits. Isolated seniors tend to be depressed and have more health problems. Look for signs of depression which include excessive sadness, crying, moodiness and trouble sleeping.
  4. Personal Care – Is your senior loved one able to shower and bathe on their own? You may notice that your Mom needs more help putting makeup on or that your Dad is unable to comb his own hair anymore. A hug can also reveal important changes in hygiene. Bad body odor and an unkempt appearance are signs a senior needs help caring for themselves according to the S. Administration on Aging.
  5. Home Environment – Stacks of unopened mail, piles of clutter, and expired food are red flags that your loved one may be struggling. Dying plants and broken appliances can suggest they lack the energy or ability to keep the house in order. Scorched cookware could be a sign your aging parent forgets the stove on, which is a very serious fire hazard.

If you suspect an older relative needs help, take action. Talk with them about downsizing and moving to a senior living community where they will find the support they need to stay safe and independent. Adopt a light, sensitive tone when you talk with your loved one to let them know you care and have their best interests at heart.