The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration, where we come together with our senior loved ones to create cherished memories. While this time is filled with love and happiness, it can also be overwhelming for aging parents. Their behaviors may change, making it challenging to gauge their well-being. Feelings of loneliness and depression can arise, leading to potential shifts in behavior.  

Awareness of these warning signs is crucial when visiting senior relatives during the holidays, to ensure their safety and well-being.  

During this year’s holiday gatherings, be sure to keep a lookout for these signs that may indicate our senior loved ones need extra assistance at home. 

Changes in the Home Environment 

If you notice that your aging parent’s home appears untidy or if you see piles of paperwork, magazines, or other items accumulating, this could be an indication that they are struggling to keep up. Take the opportunity to check in with them and see how they are doing. This might be the perfect moment to discuss whether they would benefit from cleaning and maintenance assistance or are considering downsizing to a more manageable living space. 

Changes in Balance and Mobility 

If you observe a noticeable decline in your elderly parent’s physical mobility, such as struggling with stairs, an unsteady walking pattern, or experiencing prolonged discomfort after sitting for long periods, these signs should be taken seriously and warrant a doctor’s attention to explore various options for ensuring their safety and mobility. This may involve effective pain management techniques, engaging in physical therapy sessions, providing in-home care, utilizing mobility aids, and making necessary modifications to their living environment. In some cases, additional assistance or even transitioning to a more accessible living situation may be considered. 

Cognitive changes 

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia do not manifest overnight. However, the indicators of these significant neurological conditions can easily go unnoticed if family members are unaware of what to look for. Throughout the holiday season, be vigilant for early signs concerning cognitive changes: 

• Memory loss that disrupts daily life 

• Difficulty in finding words 

• Problems with completely familiar tasks 

• Decline in coordination and motor function 

• Confusion and disorientation 

People with dementia are also more prone to developing mood and behavioral problems, such as depression, anxiety, lack of inhibition, paranoia, increased agitation, and inappropriate behaviors. 

When these serious issues begin to arise, it is crucial to explore options for memory care providers.  

How to Handle Signs of Decline 

If you discover things that concern you, don’t jump to the conclusion that your parent is “slipping.” These changes may be due to drug interactions or depression. However, it is important to take action: 

• As an adult child, have an open and honest conversation with your parents about your concerns. 

• Encourage them to schedule regular medical checkups. 

• Address any safety issues that you notice. Bring up any potential safety concerns to your parents and work together to find a solution. They may benefit from using assistive devices to reach high shelves or to improve their stability. Installing handrails or a higher toilet seat in the bathroom could also help prevent falls. 

Above all else remember to enjoy your time with family this holiday season!