Deck the Halls: Senior Safety Solutions to Implement this Holiday Season

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Home Instead® shares solutions for friends and family who notice changes in older loved ones this holiday season

The holidays are a great time to visit with aging loved ones you haven’t seen in a while and join in holiday fun and traditions. It can also be an opportunity to ensure they are healthy and aging safely and comfortably. While phone conversations and video calls may be frequent among family, potential signs of a loved one’s declining health and abilities become more evident in person.

For children of a parent 65 and older, it can be hard to accept that mom is not as mobile as she used to be, or dad doesn’t have the same appetite. It can be even more difficult to determine how to address potential concerns and implement solutions, especially during a brief holiday visit. However, starting the conversation can provide a safe environment for your loved one and give them the chance to age in their own home. While many recognize living at home to be the best option for their loved one, according to research from Home Instead, 65% of seniors’ homes have at least one potential safety issue, as reported by their adult children.

“The holidays are a joyous time but that shouldn’t stop families from having important and even difficult conversations, especially when it comes to older adults’ health and well-being,” said Lakelyn Hogan Eichenberger, Ph.D., gerontologist and caregiving advocate at Home Instead. “Many older adults wish to age in place and to make this a reality, families should look for the signs that additional help is needed, formulate a plan with other family members and senior loved ones, and communicate concerns effectively.”

As the holidays approach, Hogan Eichenberger encourages families to look for the following signs that indicate a loved one may need assistance in order to remain in their own home for as long as possible:

  • Cluttered Home. If your elderly parents’ home is cluttered or you see stacks of paperwork, mail, or other things accumulating, this may be a sign that they are having difficulty maintaining the upkeep of the home and daily responsibilities.
  • Solution: Consider hiring a professional caregiver to help with daily tasks. Caregivers can assist with services such as grocery shopping, bathing, dressing, and light to moderate housekeeping. Assistance with these tasks, in addition to companionship, can make all the difference in an older adult’s daily routine and management of their home.
  • Eating Habits. Is an older loved one not eating as much as usual or the fridge is not as stocked as it used to be? This is not always cause for alarm, but could signal a change in diet and eating habits. Warning signs of unhealthy eating habits can include significant weight loss, limited food in the home, an empty refrigerator, or one filled with expired food.
  • Solution: Offer to meal prep during the week to help ensure they are eating a variety of nutritious foods throughout the day, as suggested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since seniors take in less food in general, it’s better to have nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables making up significant parts of the diet. Additionally, isolation and eating alone can contribute to loneliness and nutritional risk. To combat this, encourage your loved ones to invite a friend over for dinner or go to a neighbor’s house.
  • Memory Loss. Memory loss is just one sign of dementia and it can be mistaken for normal signs of aging. Significant memory problems that disrupt daily life, such as getting lost on the way home from a familiar grocery store or developing an inability to keep track of bills, may be early symptoms of dementia.
  • Solution: When noticing signs of dementia, it’s important to bring these concerns to the attention of your loved one’s healthcare provider. Make a list of things you wish to discuss including changes in behavior and next steps. In your loved one’s home, take a walk through each room and consider what changes need to be made to create a dementia-friendly environment. In the main living areas, adding a large-scale clock that shows both the time and the date may help reduce disorientation and confusion. Throughout the house, use a range of bright light bulbs and motion detector lights to prevent falls and make it easier for your loved one to see.
  • Balance and Mobility. Pay close attention to the way your loved one moves and how they walk. If they are unsteady on their feet, they may be at risk of falling. According to the CDC, millions of older adults—more than one out of four—fall every year, many of them in their own homes.
  • Solution: Conduct a room-by-room home safety checklist and assess what updates may be needed. In the bathroom, shower safety rails and grab bars can help older adults maintain their balance as they step in and out of the tub or shower. Installing a seat riser or raised toilet seat may reduce the risk of slips and falls while getting on and off the toilet.

While there may be a desire to keep things light during the holiday season, it’s important to address loved ones’ well-being if there are any concerns. Remember you can only do so much while you are visiting, and this should be a continued conversation with aging adults about how to create an environment that is safe to age in place.

For more information about home improvements for older adults, visit


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Dan Wieberg