Is it Time for Help? Knowing When Your Aging Loved One Can’t Go it Alone - Aging Life Care Association® professionals are a great resource

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During the holiday season families and friends visit aging loved ones. Frequently, this is the time when they discover troubling changes in health, behavior or physical appearance of their family member. Many will discover their aging loved one now needs more help or attention.

Child decorating with Grandma

Visiting with Grandma can be a time to observe if she's ok

For many families, the holidays are the first visit they’ve had with an aging relative in a year or longer.

Aging Life Care Professionals® across the country notice an increase of inquiry calls during and immediately after the holiday season.

Aging Life Care Association® incoming Board of Directors’ President Liz Barlowe, MA, CMC states that amidst the hustle and bustle, families should take time to observe any changes in an aging family member’s behaviors or lifestyle. These changes may vary widely. Bruises or cuts may indicate a recent fall, while a damaged car may indicate difficulty driving. “These signs show serious and immediate risk for the individual as well as others around them,” states Barlowe. “But taking stock of general, subtle signs of decline is important too.”

“For many families, the holidays are the first visit they’ve had with an aging relative in a year or longer,” says Kate Granigan an Aging Life Care Professional practicing in Boston, MA. “It’s the first time they can see that their mother’s house is more cluttered than before, or that she’s shuffling more down the hallway or has strategically placed furniture to hold onto for balance.”

Social isolation for seniors is a big concern, especially after the holidays Barlowe adds. The attention and activities around the holidays quickly fades and many aging relatives are left alone until the next big family event. “Loneliness and seclusion can be just as harmful to a senior as unhealthy habits.”

So how do you start a conversation with your loved one that they consider outside help? Granigan suggests to take the cues of what may be challenging them without confronting them. Ask questions about how their life could be easier or more enjoyable and then you can gently lead into a service you learned about to help out-source challenging tasks or to be a go-to assistant for support. “Not pressuring but leaving the door open with a ‘let’s think about it’ tone allows you to revisit the subject.”

Here are four key areas to examine during your holiday visits:

  • Environment: is there damage or disrepair around the house; are there piles of unopen mail; does the car have dents or scratches?
  • Food: is there adequate food; do you notice weight-loss or extreme weight gain?
  • Mood or behavior: do you notice increased confusion; have they given up hobbies or social outings; do you notice increased irritability or apathy?
  • Personal hygiene: do they not dress like they used to; do clothes seem unkempt or dirty; have they lost interest in personal grooming?

These are just a few warning signs that your elder loved one needs assistance. By initiating conversation and reaching out for support and information, you can help your loved ones as they navigate this new stage of their lives.

For more information or to find an Aging Life Care Professional near you visit

ABOUT the Aging Life Care Association® (ALCA): ALCA was formed in 1985 to advance dignified care for older adults and their families in the United States. Aging Life Care Professionals® have extensive training and experience working with older adults, people with disabilities, and families who need assistance with caregiving issues. They assist families in the search for a suitable nursing home placement or extended care if the need occurs. The practice of Aging Life Care™ and the role of care providers have captured a national spotlight, as generations of Baby Boomers age in the United States and abroad. For more information or to access a nationwide directory of Aging Life Care Professionals, please visit

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Courtney Pulitzer

Callie Daters
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