Holidays are occasions that many spend with family, whether they 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 and make plans.

The Aging Life Care Association offers the following list of warning signs and behaviors that are important to look out for while spending time with older loved ones. When someone notices changes, take the opportunity while there to further assess the situation and determine if intervention or help is needed.

1. Environment:

  • Are there 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 the 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.
  • Is weight loss noticeable, or suspicion that an elder loved one is skipping meals or not eating a nutritious diet?

3. Mood or behavior:

  • Has a loved one 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 they becoming increasingly confused? Are they constantly repeating things?
  • Are they showing irritability or apathy? Does he or she seem more withdrawn or sad?

4. Personal Hygiene: 

  • Is an elder loved one unkempt, not dressing during the day like they used to, not showering or wearing dirty clothing when they do get dressed?
  • Are there bruises that may indicate falls?

These are a few warning signs that an elder loved one needs assistance. By initiating conversation and reaching out for support and information, family can help loved ones navigate this new stage of their life.

"Holidays can be wonderfully chaotic, chasing kids and animals and catching up with family and friends," said Debbie Andersson, CMC, aging life care professional with Age at Home. "It is also a great time to play detective without appearing to. When you go into the refrigerator for a snack, check to see if the food towards the back has expired. Watch your loved ones for signs that they are not able to follow the conversations around them or are withdrawing from them. Peek behind the shower curtain to see if it appears to have been used lately. Listening, subtly investigating and spending time together will help you have a better understanding of what future needs may arise."

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


Debbie Andersson is an aging life care professional. She has worked at Age at Home as director of operations since 2014. For more information, call 603-224-6100 or visit

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