If we just keep our eyes open during those visits, seniors can tell us a lot about their needs.
Seventy-five-year-old Aunty Honey lived alone after her husband passed away.
Amy visited her Aunty Honey each year while in Massachusetts to see her sister. But Amy’s visit last year was something altogether different.
“At first glance I didn’t notice a thing” Amy said. “Aunty Honey was happy to see me; she was enthusiastic and shared stories of her childhood. Then I noticed Aunty Honey had a few stains on her dress. During our visit she offered me tea in a dirty cup, and the milk was out of date.
“That was like a red flag to me,” Amy continued. “I began to look more closely and noticed she had some large bruises on her shins. I also noticed that she didn’t have her glasses on. I inquired about them, and Aunty Honey told me she had broken her glasses a few weeks earlier and hadn’t replaced them.”
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, Amy is one of thousands of people each year who notice alarming changes in a loved one’s living situation during a holiday visit.
Staying alert to differences in a senior’s behavior and environment can be a first step in getting them the help they need.
In the kitchen, conditions to watch for include spoiled food or the absence of perishable food (milk, fruits and vegetables) in the refrigerator, pots or potholders with burn marks, and dirty plates or utensils placed back in the cabinets and drawers.
In the bedroom, look for soiled clothes hanging in the closet or stained carpets or sheets.
On the desk, keep an eye out for stacks of unopened mail, unpaid bills and delinquency notices.
Be sure to check the outside, too. Are there new dents in the bumper or doors of the car or indications that the car hasn’t been moved in a long time?
Check to see that the newspapers are being taken in the house each day.
Lastly, check the condition of pets; do they have adequate food and water? Have they lost or gained weight? Are there signs that the animals have relieved themselves inside the house?
Any one of these situations in and of itself may not be a major cause for concern, but numerous conditions may add up to a cry for help.
“We get a surge of phone calls after the holidays from worried relatives” said Carol Freeman, president of Senior Concerns. “Solutions run the gamut from a simple phone call once a week from a caring volunteer to a hot meal delivery, information on Dial-A-Ride, in-home caregiver support or registering a loved one for adult day services.”
Anyone with concerns is welcome to call (805) 497-0189 or visit www.seniorconcerns.org.