warning signs to look for during holiday visits

What to Look for When Visiting Aging Parents this Holiday

Visiting aging loved ones this holiday is a great opportunity to poke around the house and look for signs that he or she may need some extra TLC. These tips tips from the experts in aging well can help you start an important conversation. 

To Grandmother’s House We Go

by Amy Smialowicz Fowler, BA, CMC – Aging Life Care Association™ Member

Most of us really do travel over the river and through the woods to see our loved ones during the holiday season. While Skype, Facetime, and phone calls are important, they reveal only a snapshot of what is going on with aging family members. Spending time in their home provides an accurate picture of their daily life and indicate that things are changing.  When visiting the elderly this holiday season, keep these warning signs in mind:

  • Is the fridge full of outdated or rotting food? Are the shelves of the pantry empty?
  • Has the coffee table become an avalanche of papers, especially bills?
  • Could you start a pharmacy from all the of pills (current and expired)?
  • Does the car have new bumps, scrapes or scratches since your last visit? Is the registration sticker up to date?
  • Do you notice numerous upcoming doctor appointments on the calendar and your loved one is not able to explain why they are seen?

Any of these warning signs highlight possible changes in a loved one’s life and condition. It may be related to physical changes making shopping and housekeeping more difficult. It could also expose the beginnings of cognitive impairments.  And don’t forget to look for these risks that could lead to debilitating falls:

  • Are throw rugs placed throughout the house, hallways dark at night or small pets underfoot?
Thankfully there are resources to help you and your loved one get back on track.
  • Home care agencies can provide light housekeeping and assist with grocery shopping, meal preparation, laundry, and running errands.
  • Daily money managers will unravel issues caused by unpaid bills and can provide constant monitoring and financial oversight.
  • Expired and unused medications can be taken to your local sheriff’s office for proper disposal. Automatic pill dispensers can be filled several times a month to ensure that your loved one is only taking the medications (and amount) prescribed.
  • Having discussions with loved ones about their driving can be difficult, so you can utilize local driver evaluation clinics to provide a third-party assessment of their skills.
  • Throw rugs will need to be taken up,and adding inexpensive nightlights throughout the house can decrease the potential for falls.
  • Doctors’ offices have their own versions of HIPAA forms that your loved one can fill out authorizing you to speak with their medical providers. (HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which protects data privacy regarding medical information.) They will likely feel relieved that you are engaged with their health care and happy to give you authority to call providers for clarification on appointments and results of tests and to get questions answered.

Even with all these resources, it may be necessary to have a local professional keep a pulse on the situation. An Aging Life Care Manager™ can provide that individualized support and ensure your loved one is connected to the most appropriate and cost effective resources. Plus, they will keep you apprised of changes so that action can be taken before there is a crisis.

During this holiday season, enjoy your time with loved ones and make sure that they are living life to their fullest. Your engagement can make a difference and ensure they are healthy and safe.

Amy Smialowicz Fowler is a care manager, certified, and owner of WNC Geriatric Care Management. To learn more about Amy, visit wncgcm.com. This article was originally written for and published by the Asheville Citizen-Times.


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.

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