If you live a distance from your aging parents, the holidays may be the first time you have seen them in a while. While this is a time for joy and celebration, it can also be a time for you to assess your parents and their health. Really take the time to look at your parents with fresh eyes and observe if anything about them is changing or downright different. Really ask about how they are doing, and observe if they seem mentally and physically healthy to you.
Listen carefully during your conversations for signs of things they may be struggling with at home. While you might not want to bring up any potentially unpleasant topics during your visit, you can make note of things to discuss with them later. Below is a list of things to consider.
- If a loved one has had obvious weight loss or gain, they may have a medical condition that needs to be addressed. Changes in physical grooming habits, such as unkempt hair, dirty clothes, or body odor could be a sign of physical ailment or memory loss.
- A quick glance at a stack of mail can produce some telling clues. For example, unopened bills can be a sign of financial trouble or memory loss, as can statements of overdue balances. If you see an unusual amount of solicitations or thank you letters from charities, you might want to discuss with your parents how much they are donating, how often, and if it is financially prudent for them. Unfortunately, there are fake charities that target senior citizens with financial scams.
- Ask one of your parents to drive you to the store, so you can get a quick assessment of their driving skills. Observe them to see if they seem tense or easily distracted behind the wheel, as well as if they are wearing their seat-belt and obeying other traffic laws. This is also an opportunity to check the gas level and dashboard warning lights to see if your parents are properly maintaining their vehicles.
- Check out all of the appliances in the home to make sure they are in good working order. This goes double for smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and medical alert systems.
- Look around your parents’ home and see if their standard of living seems to have changed. If you find clutter and cobwebs in what was once a spotlessly clean home, it could be a sign of depression or the onset of physical limitations.