During the holidays, many people will be visiting their aging parents or relatives.
That makes it a perfect opportunity to observe them in their “natural habitat” – you’ll get to see how they’re really doing.
This year, use some of your time at home to do 3 things: make sure your older adults are doing well, make simple home safety updates, and start important conversations ab
out the future.
We share tips that help you focus on important details that will make a big difference in the long run.
1. Discreetly check on independent seniors
If your parents or relatives are living independently, the holidays are a great time to discreetly check on them.By doing this every year and keeping notes, you’ll be able to spot changes more easily in the future. Here is a checklist you can use:
Home visit checklist
In general, look for signs of trouble with thinking skills, vision, and physical activity.
Physical and mental health
Have they lost weight or do they seem more frail?
Do they have trouble having normal conversations?
Do you notice any strange new behaviors like repeating stories or being unusually confused about simple things?
Are they squinting or tripping over things much more than usual?
Are their driving skills the same as before?
Do you feel safe when they drive you around?
Are there any unexplained dents or scratches on the car?
Have you heard about any traffic tickets?
Do they still do the activities they used to enjoy?
Are they reluctant to leave the house?
Are they keeping up with their usual friends and community organizations?
Is the house messier or dirtier than normal?
Is there a lot of unopened mail?
Are unpaid bills lying around?
Are there broken household items like clogged drains, burned out light bulbs, or broken appliances?
Is the refrigerator stocked with fresh foods they normally eat?
Is there moldy or expired food around?
Are there burned pots and pans or burn marks on the floors or counters?
Are there any new medications, vitamins, or supplements you haven’t seen before?
Is their medication organized so it’s easy to take the correct dose at the correct time?
Are expired medications mixed up with current ones?
2. Spend an afternoon on home safety updates
While you’re visiting, you might have an opportunity to make a few simple safety updates.
These easy fixes don’t take much time and will help older adults avoid common accidents so they can stay independent longer.
Quick fixes for bathroom and bedroom include: install nightlights, ensure they have clear pathways between rooms, install grab bars, move items they may not be able to reach in cabinets and cupboards. If their bath mats are slippery (a real hazard!), replace them with low-profile, non-slip mats.
3. Have meaningful conversations about the future
When family gets together over the holidays, it’s a good opportunity for meaningful conversations.
If you haven’t already started talking about aging and plans for the future, consider bringing up the subject at a strategic time.
You might be surprised – many parents appreciate having these conversation and will be grateful that you brought it up.
Here are a few conversation starters to keep in mind to make it easier to get the ball rolling:
A. Say something like “I’ve noticed some things take more energy these days. What are the important things you really want to do?” Or “What are your priorities? Is there a way we can make it easier for you to do those things?”
B. Mention how much you admire the way they’ve handled retirement and ask for advice on what has worked well for them so that you can learn from them.
C. Use an event in the news or a story about an aging family member or friend. Say, “We never talk about these things. I don’t want to pry, but it would give me peace of mind to know there’s a plan if we need it.”