Holidays can be a good time to assess the health and well-being of aging relatives. Unfortunately, in many families, people don’t see each other regularly and phone calls may not be enough to identify potential problems. Spending extra time together can reveal physical, mental or financial issues that need to be addressed. Here is some guidance on what to look for:

  • Mail. Are there bills or late notices laying around? Is mail piled up unopened? You should discuss the issue of finances with your loved one to ensure that bills are being paid and also to check their overall financial well-being. Even if they are making payments, they may be sacrificing in one area of their lives (ex. food) to pay for another (ex. rent).
  • Housekeeping/indoor maintenance. Is the house clean and in good repair? Does the thermostat work? Are there tripping hazards in the house? Is lighting adequate? Do appliances work? Does the refrigerator have too much or too little food or food that’s spoiled?
  • Outdoor maintenance. Has the grass been cut, leaves raked, and gutters cleaned? Does the house need painting? Who will handle snow removal or other difficult chores?
  • Medication. Are you aware of all the medications your elderly relative is taking? Write down the names and dosages of their prescriptions to discuss with your loved one. Make sure he/she is taking medications regularly. Also check whether there is expired medicine in the cabinet.
  • Physical condition. Does your family member have unexplained bruising, poor personal hygiene, trouble getting up or climbing stairs? Can he/she hear and see properly? Has he/she lost or gained a lot of weight?
  • Mental/emotional condition. Does your loved one seem depressed, anxious or confused? Is he/she experiencing mood swings or any kind of personality change? Is he/she dressing properly for the weather or wearing otherwise inappropriate clothes? Has he/she lost interest in friends or hobbies?
  • Relationships. Does your loved one have someone who helps with chores or checks in on him/her? You should meet the person and get contact information, so you can reach out in an emergency. Also look for any suspicious behavior or concerns about the relationship. Sadly, the elderly can be taken advantage of by friends, relatives and strangers alike.

Take advantage of being together to check on your loved one and make sure he/she isn’t in need of extra care.

Whether or not you notice any changes in your loved one, it is important to discuss his/her desires and expectations for long-term care. Also make sure he/she has legal protections in place including executing a durable power of attorney, health care proxy, living will, will and trust documents. If you need help planning for long-term care, contact me for a consultation.

For more tips on helping your loved ones, read our related posts 6 Tips to Help Protect Yourself and Family Members from Elder Abuse and Create Your Own Playbook for Aging.