News & Events


Home Care / Home Help

Signs to watch out for when visiting older relatives over Christmas

Dec 19, 2011


Christmas is a good time for family members spending a couple of days with an older family member or friend to tune into the signs that he or she may need extra help to remain safe at home.

“The run up to Christmas is a very busy time for everyone and it’s easy for family or friends who regularly visit the elderly person not to see the subtle signs that he or she needs assistance,” says Ed Murphy of Home Instead Senior Care. “But some family members or relatives or friends who may not have seen the senior for a while can notice subtle differences since the last visit. Signs of potential trouble can be evident in the home – such as spoiled food in the fridge, a stack of unpaid bills or personal indicators such as episodes of confusion or dirty and unkempt clothing,” he continues. 

Signs to look out for include:

  • Check the fridge, freezer and cupboards – has food spoiled?  Is this because Mum or Dad can’t get to the shops?  Or is there a difficulty in accessing any of these areas to clean them out?
  • Look at the groceries list – is declining health prompting your parent(s) to buy more convenience and junk food so that their nutrition is not adequate?  Are they losing weight?
  • Examine the tops of furniture and counter tops for dust and dirt – household task such as cleaning may be becoming  too much for them?
  • Similiarly, how are the ceilings and fans?  Dust and dirt in high places can suggest difficulty in lifting arms and in agility/mobility – however, elderly people should be cautioned not to climb;
  • Chat with their neighbours to see if Mum or Dad’s  daily routine has changed – is he/she staying in more, watching more television and avoiding stimulating conversation and companionships?

However, care should be taken in how the issue of suggesting assistance is addressed,” Ed advises. “Don’t start the discussion when everyone is around the dinner table – or when some may have had one too many glasses of wine. Have the conversation with your brothers and sisters away from the house and then approach the parent in a non-threatening way.  For example, if the two of you are alone, you could ask, ‘I saw some bills on the hall table – is there anything I can do to help sort them out?”

“Children must recognize that their parents are adults and – unless there are cognitive or emotional problems – they can make their own decisions. We do not and should not become our parents’ parents. We must remember we will always be their children.”

For information on the services offered by Home Instead Senior Care, phone 1890 930013