Red Flags to Look For while Visiting Your Parents This Holiday Season

By Ruby Cemental

Christmas isn't too far off. In all likelihood, that means you'll be taking a trip to visit your parents. While you're enjoying the holidays with them, it might also be a good idea to keep an eye out for any worrying issues they might be having. Here are some red flags that you might not immediately think to look for.

Slow Recovery From Illness

With winter just around the corner, it's going to be tough for anybody to avoid getting sick. However, most people bounce back from their yearly cold or flu pretty quickly. If they took an unusually long time to recover from their latest illness, or even worse, if it developed into something more serious it may be time to look into senior care.


We've all accidentally let junk mail pile up, but if you see numerous piles of unopened mail around your parents' home, it might be a red flag. If the mail looks unsorted, it could very likely include bills or other important mail. Neglecting bills can be a sign that your parent is unable to manage their finances anymore, which can be an early warning sign for dementia.


Your parent's food habits can tell you a lot about how they're doing. If they're mostly buying unusually cheap food, it could be a sign of financial problems. If most of their diet is unhealthy (think TV dinners and donuts), you should talk to them about changing their diet. What we eat has a huge impact on our health.

Additionally, if they are unaware that they continually buy multiples of the same food, it could be a sign of memory issues that might be a red flag for any number of problems. Your parent's food choices can tell you a lot about how they're doing, so make sure to check out what they've got in the fridge while you're visiting.

Emotional Well-Being

The twilight years aren't always the easiest. Pay special attention to what kind of mood your parent is in. Do they seem quick to anger, just kind of down, or are they acting in an uncharacteristically upbeat manner? The first two could be signs of the onset of a number of mental disorders. And while it might be nice seeing your parent in an unexpectedly cheerful mood, any abrupt change in their emotional state is something to take note of. If you notice anything out of the ordinary in your parents' emotional state, check with a doctor to see how to move forward.

Mental State

You'll want to keep an eye on how well they remember events, both recent and long-past. In addition, if they do not recognize who you are, who they are, or where they are, you should get them care immediately. Significant loss of memory and awareness are often signs of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

If your parent is having an unusually hard time focusing, it could also be a red flag for a number of problems. Not least among the potential issues here are Alzheimer's and dementia.


As we age and our physical ability fades, it becomes decidedly harder to take care of ourselves. It might be time to find a caregiver for your parents if you start noticing a significant drop in their hygiene. Whether it's their clothing, hair, or general cleanliness, it may well to talk.

Living Conditions

What is the state of their home? Is it clear that they are having difficulty keeping it up? If you can see things like an especially messy kitchen, dead or dying plants, or piles of laundry, you may want to look into hiring a caregiver. Clutter often accumulates so slowly that only a fresh pair of eyes like yours notices it. If your loved one used to be neat and doesn’t seem to be keeping up, mention it to them. Talk about it and ask if they think it has become a problem.

Weight Loss

Are your parents looking a little thinner these days? If so, it could be a sign of a number of issues. Weight loss among the elderly is fairly widespread, and it can be a sign of anything from depression, to malnutrition, or even cancer. Whatever it ends up being, it's imperative that you have your parents talk to a doctor about any abrupt weight loss.


Not everyone likes to take pills. If your senior is one of those people, both of you are already aware of it. Don’t be too shy to ask them if they are keeping up with purchasing and taking their medications. It’s easy for them to say yes during a phone call and then not actually remember to take them or refill them. Be respectful but remind them you are concerned for their long-term well-being.

At Caring Senior Service we are always ready to help seniors and their families by providing professional advice and services. As you consider ways to give support to your aging parents or relatives, consider including us in your plans. Reach out to the Caring location near you.

Tags: Holidays