Millions of Americans will visit aging parents during the holiday
season, so it's a good opportunity to look for signs that older loved ones may
need assistance or even a change in living conditions. This "check-up" is
particularly important if the parent lives alone, or if one partner in a couple
declines in health.
A new Pew Research
Center analysis of census data found that 32 percent of women aged 65 to 84
live alone. Among older men in that age group, 18 percent live alone. A 2014
Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that 14
percent of the elderly care for a spouse or partner.
Many elderly people want to live at home
as long as possible, so family members need to pay attention to the condition
of the home as well as the loved one.
"An aging parent living
at home alone can pose a major issue if they slip and fall with no one around
to help. Driving can also become a challenge for them, and this can affect
everything from the quality of food they eat to the medicines they take," said Eva Hutton, marketing director for Crestview Retirement Community in Bryan, Texas.
adult children to check for home trip hazards, especially in the kitchen and
bathrooms. Installing bathroom rails, for instance, can help prevent injuries
from slips and falls. One out of three adults aged 65 and older fall each year,
and a fall can easily become a major health crisis.
"Adult children need
to pay close attention to their parents' physical condition. Do you see
significant weight loss or gain? Are they having trouble walking or getting in
and out of chairs?"
The adult child also needs to make
contact and then stay in contact with their loved one's health care providers,
including pharmacists, to understand the parent's medical needs. They should
know how frequently mom or dad needs to see the doctor.
Another area to
check is the kitchen cabinet and the refrigerator. Do you see spoiled food or
inadequate food supplies? An abundance of canned and frozen foods and a lack of
fresh fruits and vegetables can indicate a change in ability to prepare healthy
meals. Make sure, too, that all appliances are in good working order.
While many elderly
adults can manage well at home, the need for social interaction still exists. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
reported in 2015 that a lack of face-to-face contact with family and friends
almost doubles the risk of depression in older adults. The study also found
that regular contact over the telephone or through email does little to offset
"Isolation can lead to depression.
If you notice or hear complaints of a lack of energy, of low motivation, of a loss
of interest in hobbies, or increased use of alcohol or other drugs, the
underlying issue could simply be depression due to a lack of social
Hutton suggests adult children should
also check for signs of poor hygiene and a decline in home cleanliness and
repair, as these can be signs of memory loss.
"Do you see stacks of unopened mail?
Are bills not getting paid? Are medication bottles full, even though the
prescription date indicates the bottle should be almost empty? We want people
to know how to spot the warning signs so they can make sure their loved ones
are getting the help they need, and the holidays are often the best - and
sometimes the only - time of year that families are able to check in on their