How to tell if your loved ones could benefit from senior living.

When you don’t live near your parents, it’s tough to know if they’re still safe living at home. The holiday season can be a good time to check in and see how they’re doing. “People don’t get to visit as often as they would like or would hope, but often make the point to visit at the holidays,” says Adam Mitchell, Executive Director at AlmaVia of San Francisco.

During your visit, your parents may not always be straightforward about how they’re doing on their own. This could be because they don’t want you to worry or they don’t recognize any changes. Observing things around the house can give you a more objective idea of how they’re really doing.

“I went through this with my own mother,” says Jun Sagun, Resident Care Director at AlmaVia of San Francisco. “I knew I picked up a refill of her prescription a month before, and then I noticed when I visited that bottle was not even open. That triggered me to look at things a little closer.”

When you visit your parents, be sure to keep an eye out for any noticeable changes around the house. There are red flags that can indicate your loved one might not be safe at home.

Warning Signs That Elderly Parents Living Alone May Not be Safe
Check inside the fridge. Is there enough food? Is there food that’s gone bad or expired? Do they have an excessive amount of the same item? This could indicate memory loss.
Look at clutter. Are there unopened bills in that stack of old mail? Are there spills and messes that haven’t been cleaned up? Are newspapers piling up outside?
Keep an eye out for signs of accidents or falls. If your parents drive, do they remember to buckle their seatbelts? Are there unexplained dents in the car? Do either of them have bruises or scrapes they don’t want to explain?
Note any changes in appearance. Is there any noticeable weight loss or gain? Are they dressing differently or wearing the same clothes over and over? Are they neglecting regular grooming habits?
Make sure they are keeping a safe environment. Do they forget to turn off the stove? Are they locking the doors? If they have an alarm system, do they remember to set it?
The most important thing to notice? Any changes in the status quo. “It’s all about if something is a change in a habit or a continuation of one,” says Mitchell. Keep your parent’s usual routines and behavior in mind as you evaluate possible causes of concern. “Just because the china cabinet is dusty, that doesn’t mean anything,” says Mitchell. “If he’s never been very tidy, that’s not a change.”

If you do notice significant changes during your visit, the best course of action is to talk to your parents right away. “Be direct and ask questions,” says Mitchell. “Say ‘Mom or Dad, I’ve noticed this thing’ or ‘This thing seems different, is that how you intended?’” This will allow you to immediately address your concerns, and determine whether or not your parent needs help as soon as possible.

Click here for more information on signs your parent may need assisted living.