17 Warning Signs to Watch for During Holiday Visits With Seniors

Holiday get-togethers are a good time for far-flung family members to take inventory of their elderly loved one’s situation to determine whether they’re still able to safely live on their own.

Whether it’s your aging parent or a significantly older sibling, there are certain signs that that will indicate a family member may need some extra help at home:


Unexplained cuts, burns or bruises
Noticeable weight loss
Bad body odor
Not bathing or showering on a regular basis
Trouble with walking and balance
Not keeping up with personal grooming habits


Extreme mood swings
Uncharacteristic behaviors (i.e. a normally easy-going individual that starts exhibiting signs of paranoia)
Memory issues (i.e. getting lost in familiar places, easily confused, forgetting to take medications)
Loss of interest in activities and once-loved hobbies
Missed doctor’s appointments


A lot of spoiled food in the fridge
Intense smells, specifically urine
Fresh dents or scratches on the car
Expired and unused medications
Scorched pots and pans
Unpaid bills

You don’t have to interrupt the holiday festivities and search your loved one’s house from stem to stern, just keep your eyes peeled for anything that seems out-of-place in their bearing or demeanor. Even small signs can tell you what your loved one won’t—that they shouldn’t be living by themselves any longer.

If you identify any of these indicators, it may be time to have “the talk” about getting outside care with your aging loved one. For some help in getting this typically touchy conversation started, check out:

7 Communication Techniques for Talking to Elderly Parents
Helping Aging Parents: Taking Charge Without Taking Over

How to Keep Your Sanity During the Holidays
Why Old People Refuse Help
How to Have Peace and Avoid Arguments During Family Meetings
5 Ways to Make the Holidays Merry
What to Expect When You Become a Family Caregiver
6 Strategies for Talking About a Move to Senior Living

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R4 years ago


Sharon F.
Sharon F4 years ago

People must remember oral health. The teeth are a bacteria factory midway between the brain and heart. Bacteria grows in wet and warm conditions. Also, Turn Off TV; take a walk or read a book. Use your public library and public parks. We are a nation of sick people; every hospital in this Metro area has added on. It is our civic responsibility to aim for wellness. Peace to all.

Denise Morley
Denise Morley4 years ago

Thanks for the list and the link

Tanya Selth
Tanya Selth4 years ago

Good article. My nanna lives all alone and I often worry about her doing so.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen4 years ago

Thank you :)

Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Marie W.
Marie W4 years ago

Trying to be helpful; maybe making more trouble. No thought to legal/financial issues/obligations incurred if family member needs help. Justin K. said it best-You are On Your Own if you [or family] can't pay for assistance.
USA does not a real social assistance net like EU, Nordic or other countries.

Mary Deforest
Mary Deforest4 years ago

I never know when these comments are going to end-so I told about the old woman followed by social workers, assessing her. Then I told how my hounds alerted me that she felt hurt in some way. So, I really was curious and the poor old lady was alert enough to realize that the hounds would help her. From what I ran into with social workers, when I taught, I don't think that her kids kicked her out of the house.

Mary Deforest
Mary Deforest4 years ago

One day I was walking my coonhounds. There was a frail old lady walking down the street followed by 2 smug women with notepads and pencils. She looked like a Jew trying to escape Nazis. She looked over her shoulder, looked at me with desperation, looked over her shoulder. I smiled, and the dogs wagged their tails. She gave a sigh of relief, and a timid smile. I asked her how she was doing today, and what she thought of the latest police scandal. She walked over, and pet the hounds. I clued her about their names. She said, 'I like Blueticks" and pet the Bluetick. I commented they were good hounds for scenting old trails. She laughed and made a joke about how loud they are. I told her that Walkers are taking over the hound world here. She pet Missy and said , so this is the walker you've talking about. You should have seen the faces of those women and they were speed writing. This woman could interact, she knew how to get along with huge hunting dogs, they thought that she knew their names, she knew about current local politics. The old woman looked over her shoulder, and told me that she had to keep moving. She was standing straighter and walking stronger. There are a lot of old people being kicked out of their houses by their families and sent to hell holes. The families move in or mostly sell the house. It's disgusting. I'm so glad my hounds alerted me, they kept looking at her, moaning and wagging their tails. So, I started looking things over real good.

Angela J.
Angela J4 years ago

This is so hard to do.