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7 Ways to Investigate Your Loved One’s Needs During a Holiday Visit

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As you pile the gifts into the back of the car and check off any last-minute errands from your list before heading home for the holidays, you might also want to prepare to handle any changes you notice in your aging loved ones. Keep your eyes open for these seven common issues that can threaten a senior’s independence.

  1. Pain. Does your mother now pull up a stool by the sink to peel the potatoes? Does she wince when she bends down? Does she complain about a bad back? If you notice any red flags, try gently asking her, “How long has your back been hurting you?” Even if she tries to pretend she’s managing fine, consider helping her schedule a doctor’s appointment “just to be sure.”
  2. Memory. Does she have trouble recalling events from that morning? Has she told you the same story over and over? You may want to keep a list of concerns to bring up with her primary care physician or neurologist.
  3. Depression. If you see any hints of irritability, sadness or sleep difficulties, these could be signs of depression. Depression is common among seniors, and any related concerns should be checked out by a doctor or mental health care professional.
  4. Social Engagement. Ask your mother to tell you about her friends. Social seniors generally have a healthier and more optimistic outlook on life. If she doesn’t have a strong social network, look into community activities that she may enjoy or companionship services.
  5. Safety. If your mother has more difficulty walking, make sure she has a cane, walker or the proper support; remove throw rugs or other potential tripping hazards; and look into installing grab bars and no-slip strips where needed. If you’re worried about falls or other safety issues, look into getting a medical alert system or hiring a CAREGiverSM from the Home Instead® network who can check up on her frequently.
  6. Housekeeping. As seniors experience declining health, they may have more trouble keeping up with the housework. If you notice the house looks more unkempt than usual, consider senior care services that include light housekeeping.
  7. Medication. Try to notice if your senior loved one is taking the appropriate pills at mealtimes or before bed and if she is keeping the pillbox organized. If she is not reliable with a medication schedule, you may want to look into home care services that provide medication reminders.

How to Address the Issues You Uncover

Even if you meet with some resistance when gently confronting a loved one about potential issues you may observe during your visit, it is in both your and your loved one’s best interest to find a solution that can help keep him or her safe and independent at home.

If you’re unsure about the best way to diplomatically discuss issues with your loved one, download a conversation starter guide.

For any physical or mental health concerns you may have, consulting your aging loved one’s physician might be the best thing to do. It’s better to address a concern early than wait until it becomes a health emergency.

If you get the sense that your loved one needs more assistance with tasks of daily living, look into local in-home care services. The Home Instead network offers free care consultations that allow you and your family to sit down and discuss care options with a home care professional, without you having to pay for the consultation or committing to services. Get in touch with your local office to schedule your free consultation.

Last revised: October 29, 2013

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. November 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Posted by Linda Riley

    My 88 year old mother-in-law is drinking way too much. She will drink over a bottle of wine every day (plus cocktails if she goes out to lunch). She recently had surgery and lied to the doctor about her drinking. We had to tell him in an aside so they could make sure the anesthesia was okay. She hides her wine drinking-sometimes drinking out of a coffee cup instead of a wine glass. She is very tiny so this is a lot of alcohol for her body. She is unsteady on her feet at times. Many times, she is visibly drunk. Some people say to leave her alone-she's 88 and should be able to do what she wants. I'm afraid of her driving with alcohol in her system, plus she doesn't remember many things that happen while she is drinking. She is very combative if her drinking is mentioned.


    • December 4, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Posted by Darlene

      You are very concerned regarding your mother's alcoholism. I think the first issue is that she is driving (to get wine??) in the first place. Perhaps you could have her doctor submit his authority to the Car Registry to have her licence taken away from her and sell the car. My family ended up doing this after our father had Parkinson's disease for a few years. This way she cannot hold anger towards the family. I think, secondly, you need to begin the exploration of retirement facilities as sometimes it can take a year to get into a facility. There are many different activities in these facilities some of which many may capture your mother's interest.


  2. November 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Posted by Suzanne Stephenson

    Is in home services available for short periods of time. I would be interested in having someone stay in the home for 1 month. The only requirement is to have a driving license, mother is on dialysis and must go 3 days a week. All other appointments would be scheduled at a different time. I am just checking to see what is available for me in N Las Vegas. Thank you


    • November 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Posted by Cat Koehler

      Thank you for your question, Suzanne! I encourage you to contact your local Home Instead. They can discuss the situation with you. You can find their contact information by entering your mother's zip code at Cat Koehler Social Media Advocate Home Instead


  3. November 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Posted by verna toma

    Alzhemier disease


  4. November 7, 2013 at 8:34 am | Posted by Cathye Hendrix

    This is a good article--very helpful. However, it would be good to add taking notice of mail. Is mail piling up unopened, are bills not being paid? This was a big problem that we discovered when my parents health declined.


  5. November 7, 2013 at 8:26 am | Posted by Deb Sterling

    Having trouble getting mother in law who is 91 and has symptoms of dementia, to fully allow us to pay all her bills. She insists on keeping some checks to pay her rent and her hairdresser. We took over her checkbooks a couple years ago due to her hospitalization for a fractured pelvis and a hip replacement. Her memory is terrible and she has lost checks and is constantly throwing paperwork in the trashcans. Her math skills are about gone and she insists on mulling over her already balanced checkbook, and wants to for hours, looking for what she says "I'll know it when I see it". It takes up valuable time we could be spending talking and visiting with her, going shopping or out to lunch and it's getting where it's a chore to even go visit her. There are always arguments and accusations. She doesn't really have a clue what she's looking at. There is very little activity in her checking account as we pay her bills online.We always share information with her and my husband (her son) and I, married for 39 years, feel like she still just doesn't trust us to help her. I guess she thinks we may take her money and move to Mexico leaving her in an alley ?????What can we do ? We see her primary care physician with her every single time she goes and we're proactive in her care. She lives in Assisted Living in a city two hours away from us and refuses to move where we are. Any suggestions would help I am sure.


    • January 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Posted by gay Wellman

      Please go to Alzheimer's Reading Room for some really good suggestions and information that will help you deal with your mother in law.


  6. November 7, 2013 at 7:48 am | Posted by Anne Haines

    I am a senior. I find these suggestions condescending to seniors, to say the least. Where has this hypothetical son or daughter been all year, that he/she does not already know the answers to these questions? Unless this "loved one" obviously suffers from dementia, any decisions about help should be made in joint discussions, as one adult to another and as equals.


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