The 4 Red Flags to Look for When Visiting Aging Loved Ones During the Holidays

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“Holidays can be a great time with family…It is also a prime opportunity to experience how your parents are actually doing.”

Holidays are occasions that many of us spend with family, whether we live down the block or across the country. For those with aging parents or loved ones, these visits are an important time to take stock amidst the hustle and bustle, and to make plans.

The Aging Life Care Association® has offered the following list of warning signs and behaviors that are important to look out for as you spend time with older loved ones. If you notice changes, take the opportunity while you are there to further assess the situation and determine if intervention or help is needed.

1. Environment:

  • Do you see signs of damage or disrepair around or in the home? Accumulated trash or possessions? Burned out light bulbs?
  • Any decline in cleanliness, especially in the kitchen and bathroom? Are items being stored in unusual or hazardous places? Is there a large amount of unopened mail?
  • Does their car have scratches or other areas of damage?

2. Food:

  • Is there adequate food? Check the fridge to see if there are expired or spoiled food items.
  • Do you notice weight loss or do you suspect that your elder loved one is skipping meals or not eating a nutritious diet?

3. Mood or behavior:

  • Has mom or dad stopped socializing and given up on hobbies that were important to them?
  • Do they have any new friends or organizations who they have a lot of contact with? Is anyone or any organization asking for repeated or large donations or loans?
  • Are you noticing increased confusion? Do you notice your elder loved one constantly repeating things?
  • Are they showing irritability or apathy? Does he or she seem more withdrawn or sad?

4. Personal Hygiene:

  • Are you noticing your elder loved one is unkempt, not dressing during the day like they used to; not showering and wearing dirty clothing when they do get dressed?
  • Do you notice bruises that may indicate they have had falls?


These are just a few warning signs that your elder 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.

“Holidays can be a great time with family,” says Amy O’Rourke, President of the Aging Life Care Association. “It is also a prime opportunity to experience how your parents are actually doing—are they shuffling instead of walking, what kind of food is in the fridge, how much clutter is around, are there any new people who have taken an inappropriate interest in their life? Observe, listen and spend time with them—this time will give you invaluable information about how to best support them.”

Aging Life Care™/geriatric care managers are an excellent source of information and support. Working with families, an Aging Life Care Manager™ can help create a plan for caring for aging loved ones. Their guidance leads families to the actions and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for those they love, thus reducing worry, stress, and time off of work for family caregivers.

ABOUT the Aging Life Care Association ® (ALCA): ALCA (formerly known as the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers) was formed in 1985 to advance dignified care for older adults and their families in the United States. Aging Life Care Professionals® have extensive training and experience working with older adults, people with disabilities, and families who need assistance with caregiving issues. They assist families in the search for a suitable nursing home placement or extended care if the need occurs. The practice of Aging Life Care™ and the role of care providers have captured a national spotlight, as generations of Baby Boomers age in the United States and abroad. For more information or to access a nationwide directory of Aging Life Care Professionals, please visit aginglifecare.org.

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