What to Look for When Visiting Aging Loved Ones for the Holidays

Is it Time for Help? Knowing When Your Aging Loved One Isn’t Safe Alone Anymore


November 2023 — Aging Life Care Managers® across the country report an increase in inquiries during and immediately after the holiday season. Denver-area Aging Life Care Manager Alissa Schramm concurs, saying she fields a greater volume of calls—usually from visiting adult children—around the holidays.

Amid the hustle and bustle, families should take time to observe any changes in an aging loved one’s behaviors or lifestyle, according to Florida-based Aging Life Care Manager Liz Barlowe. These changes may vary widely. Bruises or cuts may indicate a recent fall while a damaged car may signal difficulty driving.

“These signs show serious and immediate risk for the individual as well as others around them,” Barlowe states. “But taking stock of general, subtle signs of decline is important too.”

“For many families, the holidays are the first visit they’ve had with an aging relative in a year or longer,” says Kate Granigan, an Aging Life Care Manager practicing in Boston. “It’s the first time they can see that their mother’s house is more cluttered than before, or that she’s shuffling more down the hallway or has strategically placed furniture to hold onto for balance.”

Here are four key areas to examine during your holiday visits:

  • Environment: Is there damage or disrepair around the house; are there piles of unopen mail; does the car have dents or scratches?
  • Food: Is there adequate food; do you notice weight-loss or extreme weight gain?
  • Mood or behavior: Do you notice increased confusion; have they given up hobbies or social outings; do you notice increased irritability or apathy?
  • Personal hygiene: Do they not dress like they used to; do clothes seem unkempt or dirty; have they lost interest in personal grooming?

What Happens After the Holidays?

Social isolation for seniors is a big concern, especially after the holidays, Barlowe adds. The attention and activities around the holidays quickly fades and many aging relatives are left alone until the next big family event. “Loneliness and seclusion can be just as harmful to an aging adult as unhealthy habits.”

So how do you start a conversation with your loved one that they consider outside help? Granigan suggests taking the cues of what may be challenging them without confronting them. Ask questions about how their life could be easier or more enjoyable and then you can gently lead into a service you learned about to help out-source challenging tasks or to be a go-to assistant for support. “Not pressuring but leaving the door open with a ‘let’s think about it’ tone allows you to revisit the subject.”

These are just a few warning signs that your aging loved one needs assistance. By initiating conversation and reaching out for support and information, you can help your loved ones as they navigate this new stage of their lives.

– Aging Life Care Association®


Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.