As a long distance family caregiver, you do a lot to support your aging loved one. However, it can sometimes be difficult to know how well they are doing at home when you live many miles away. Visiting for the holidays is one way to check in, in person, while also enjoying time with them during this special time of year. Here are some important things to look for during a holiday visit with a senior. Watching for these signs provides you with an indication as to whether or not your parents need a little more help to remain independent at home.

Grooming Standards


Whether your last visit was a few months ago or last Christmas, how well your loved one is maintaining their grooming standards is a good indicator of how well they are managing personal care tasks. While an unshaven face, unwashed hair, weight loss or clothes that aren’t perfectly ironed don’t necessarily mean that dad needs more help, consider what his standards were in the past. For the most part, how he looks shouldn’t change too drastically from visit to visit. If it does, look for other indicators or consider a visit to the doctor to see if cognitive deficits or increasing physical limitations might be the cause. Dad might also benefit from help from a trusted friend, family member or professional caregiver.

The Home

Your parents might not keep a spotless home, and it’s perfectly okay if they don’t. However, if the condition of their home has slipped considerably since your last visit, make a mental note of it. Spoiled food in the refrigerator, uncontrolled mold or mildew and pantry pests in particular are potential signs that certain tasks are more than they can manage alone. They are health hazards too. Whether it’s a weekly maid service or support from local family or a professional caregiver, having an extra set of hands in the home might be just what it takes to get them back on track.

Their Pets


Pets are a valuable source of companionship, but sometimes taking care of them properly is a lot for an aging loved one. If Fido hasn’t been bathed in weeks or Tabby Kitty looks like she’s lost weight and has a litter box that hasn’t been cleaned in a month, it might mean these tasks are physically difficult for your aging loved one. Consider getting help from a dog walker, pet sitter or mobile vet. Also, have an honest conversation with your loved one about what you’re seeing and why you feel extra help is necessary. This might provide you with valuable information about why they’re struggling and where else they need help too.

The Car


New scratches, scrapes or dents on the car or the garage door might be signs that driving is no longer a safe activity for your loved one to participate in. To figure out if this is the case, take a ride with your loved one behind the wheel during your stay, and quietly evaluate their skills. Drifting across lanes, excessively slow speeds or delayed stops are all indicators that their driving skills may not be up to par.

There are plenty of reasons why this might be happening, and they range from a need for a new pair of glasses to new physical limitations or even cognitive decline related to the earlier stages of dementia. It’s a good idea to speak honestly with your loved one about what you’re seeing. Encourage them to visit a doctor while you’re visiting, and get a medical opinion to better understand why their driving skills are declining and how to best help them.

Keep these things to look for during a holiday visit with a senior in mind , but consider that your family’s holiday dinner probably isn’t the best setting for hashing out your concerns and debating next steps. However, do make the time to talk to your loved one while also listening to their concerns, ideas and possible solutions. Use this as an opportunity to get them help without judging them or making them feel like this is an excuse to reduce their level of independence. If you need professional support, Salus Homecare in San Diego is here to help. Contact us anytime, even over the holidays, to schedule a complimentary, no obligation consultation.