Holiday Caregiving

Recognizing When Your Loved One Needs More Care

by Carla Payne // October - November - December 2023

The holiday season is a time of joy and togetherness, often bringing families together from far distances. It’s also a valuable opportunity to assess the well-being of our elderly relatives. These festive visits can reveal subtle indications that your loved ones could benefit from extra assistance, or even a transition to a care community.

Following are a few key signs to watch for during holiday visits, along with guidance on seeking help if needed.

1. Physical Appearance and Personal Hygiene: Take note of changes in appearance and grooming. Unwashed clothes, unkempt hair, or poor personal hygiene might suggest challenges in managing daily tasks independently.

2. Cognitive Decline and Forgetfulness: Watch for memory lapses, confusion, and repetitive conversations. Are they struggling to recall recent events or familiar faces? Memory loss and cognitive decline are common in aging, but excessive forgetfulness or disorientation may require closer evaluation.

3. Weight Loss or Poor Nutrition: Monitor eating habits and weight changes. Sudden weight loss could indicate nutritional issues or underlying health concerns. Take a look at the contents of their refrigerator and pantry to ensure they have nutritious food.

4. Home Environment and Safety: Evaluate their living conditions for signs of neglect or hazards. Are there piles of unopened mail, clutter, or signs of hoarding? Check for expired foods or medications. Unsafe or unsanitary living conditions could pose risks to their well-being.

5. Changes in Mobility: Observe their movement around the house. Do they have difficulty walking or maintaining balance? Are there signs of falls, such as bruises or cuts? Mobility issues may increase the risk of accidents or injuries.

6. Emotional Well-Being: Engage in conversations to gauge their emotional state. Do they seem withdrawn, irritable, or unusually anxious? Depression and isolation can have a profound impact on their overall quality of life.

7. Social Engagement: Consider their social interactions. Are they maintaining connections with friends, or have they become increasingly isolated? Reduced social engagement can contribute to feelings of loneliness and decline in mental well-being.

8. Medication Management: Review their medication routine for accuracy. Are they taking them as prescribed? Look for expired medicines, missing doses, or confusion about them.

9. Financial Management: Discuss their financial situation. Are there unpaid bills, unusual expenses, or signs of financial mismanagement? Cognitive decline can impact their ability to handle finances effectively.

10. Recognizing Signs of Agitation or Aggression: Observe their behavior during interactions. Are they displaying signs of aggression, agitation, or uncharacteristic hostility? These behaviors could be indicative of underlying medical issues such as a urinary tract infection or emotional distress.

Seeking Help

Recognizing these signs is just the first step. If you notice any of these indicators, it’s important to take action promptly.

Consult with professionals: Reach out to their primary care physician or a geriatric specialist to discuss your concerns. They can provide valuable insights and recommend appropriate assessments.

Professional care manager: Consider consulting a certified geriatric care manager. These professionals specialize in assessing older adults’ needs and providing recommendations for care options, including assisted living or memory care communities.

Local resources: Research local organizations, support groups, and senior centers that can provide guidance and resources for caregivers and seniors.

In-home care services: Depending on the level of assistance needed, you might explore in-home care services that offer companionship, help with daily tasks, and medical monitoring.

Transition to care community: If signs of decline are substantial, it might be time to explore assisted living or memory care communities. These environments provide tailored care and support for older adults with varying levels of need.

Addressing these concerns requires open and compassionate communication with your loved one. It’s essential to involve them in the decision-making process and respect their preferences whenever possible.

Holiday gatherings present caregivers with a unique opportunity to assess their elderly loved ones’ well-being and identify signs that may indicate a need for additional care. These visits allow them to gauge physical health, cognitive functioning, emotional state, and other essential aspects. By recognizing these signs and seeking help, you are ensuring they receive the support and assistance they need.

Carla Payne

Owner of Aging Care Matters, LLC; a certified care manager; and southeast chapter president of The Aging Life Care Association®.