With the holidays comes a chance for families to gather together in celebration. Sometimes, this is a rare opportunity to see a relative who lives far away. If that person is aging and they live alone or with another aging person, it is an excellent idea to check out how they are doing. Phone calls, and even video calls, don’t tell the full story that an in-person visit might reveal about their needs for health, comfort and safety.


As people age, some ordinary life activities may become increasingly difficult or skipped altogether. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) identifies these signs of self-neglect that can be spotted during a short visit.

  • Hoarding
  • Failure to take essential medications or refusal to seek medical treatment for serious illness
  • Leaving a burning stove unattended
  • Poor hygiene
  • Not wearing suitable clothing for the weather
  • Confusion
  • Inability to attend to housekeeping
  • Dehydration

If you see these signs, it is time to work with that parent to get some additional care.

Cognitive Health

One of the biggest challenges to aging is the failure of cognitive health – the ability to think, process, and remember. Dementia from Alzheimer’s disease or another cause can severely impact the health and safety of a loved one, so it is important to look for signs of impairment. Memory loss, change in mood, taking longer to complete daily tasks, losing items or placing them in odd locations, and repeating questions are among the early symptoms that the NIH warns to look out for. There are many potential causes of these issues, so getting a proper medical assessment is critical for early treatment and intervention.

Mental Health

Older people suffer from mental health challenges, including anxiety and depression. As they slow down and become frailer, they may limit their social activities, and isolation can both increase mental health challenges and make them harder to identify. Where a relative may perk up for a phone call, their overall mental health might be in decline and need attention. In person, they might be more willing to open up about their struggle.

Don’t Do it Alone

Checking in with your loved one’s home health care provider, minister and other sources of support is an excellent way to get a clear picture of the situation that your loved one may be reluctant to reveal. If they aren’t available during your visit, you may want to consider working with a professional to do an assessment. Trained social workers and other professionals with experience working with the elderly can help identify red flags and offer suggestions and solutions that may make life easier for your loved one.

At CarePlus Home Health, we begin all of our relationships with clients by conducting a thorough in-home evaluation. We do not charge for this service, because we think it’s critical to establish trust and assess the situation to propose the right solution. If your loved one is located in Montgomery County, Howard County or Prince George’s County and you would like to schedule an in-home evaluation while you are in town, contact us today.