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Noticing Changes Over the Holidays

As we get older and we age into elderhood, we experience many changes in our bodies and our minds. Many of these changes can affect our mood, our daily routine, and especially our independence and ability to live independently. In these times, many families with adult or older children may spend less time with their elder parents or relatives throughout the year, and may concentrate time spent on traditional holidays, especially big holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hannukkah. An elder relative who may spend much of their time at home or isolated may likely come visit family (or be visited!), and this may be the first time that other family members are able to notice changes associated with aging.

One of the most important parts of maintaining and sustaining a healthy and happy life into elderhood is preparing ahead of time for lifestyle changes that may occur or accommodations that may have to be made. Changes in mobility, cognition, mood, or otherwise can have significant affects on an elder’s life. Especially during the holidays, with multiple events happening and social engagements filling the days, these changes can become much more visible to relatives and friends. Here are some things to look out for in your elder relatives during the holidays, and elements that may need to be addressed in a care plan or sit-down conversation.

  • Eating Habits

Whether visiting an elder relative or having them visit you, pay attention to their eating habits. Most importantly, look out for changes in eating habits that are unusual to how they have functioned before. Is there expired food in the fridge? Are there a lot more microwavable meals than before? For someone who perhaps used to primarily cook their own meals, a change in eating habits to something easier and quicker may be an indicator of mobility or memory issues.

  • Injuries

It’s embarrassing for everyone when we slip and fall, but most of us no longer have the same rubber-like unbreakable bones we did as a toddler. For elders especially, falls and injuries can be serious and even life-threatening. For a person losing some of their former balance, coordination, and mobility, it can be unnerving to get hurt much more easily than before. Slamming fingers in the door by accident, falling, bumping your head, all of these are indicators that maybe a care plan should be talked about. Elder people may hide or downplay their injury out of embarrassment, but it’s important to pay attention and make sure they’re safe and comfortable in their living space.

  • Medications

Many of us have experienced being on a prescription medication for a myriad of issues, whether it be antibiotics for an infection or blood pressure medication. Keep an eye out for your elder relatives consistency with medication. Have they been taking all of their pills? Is an old prescription bottle still full? Are there old bottles in the medicine cabinet? These signs can be indicators of depression or even a slipping memory.

  • Hygiene

When visiting an Elder relative over the holidays, keep an eye on the condition of their home or living space. Has the trash been taken out? Are dishes piling up in the sink? Another thing to look out for is the condition of their clothes, and even what they are wearing. A relative who used to dress-to-the-nines wearing sweatpants with foodstains on them to dinner may not be feeling the same mood or even independence level they did previously. Don’t just chalk up a messy house or wrinkled clothes to laziness, they can be indicators of a greater issue or an important decline in autonomy.

As we enjoy the holidays with our families, keeping an eye out for changes in our elder relatives is an important part of keeping them happy, healthy, and safe. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to follow our Facebook page for weekly 2-minute reads with healthy living tips for seniors and caregivers:

Senior Steps is a full-service geriatric care management company offering top-quality, personalized care to elderly clients on Boston’s South Shore. We offer free consultations, so call us today at 617-405-8796 or e-mail us at if you would like to chat about how we can help you or an elderly loved one with medical, financial, or legal advocacy, or activities of daily living.

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