Dear Donna:

I will be heading home at Christmas to visit my 91-year old mother who lives in northern Michigan. I live in California so I usually only make it home once or twice a year to see her in person.

Early this summer when my kids and I went to visit, I thought she seemed a little frailer. We use Skype to chat on a regular basis and it looks to me like she’s lost weight. She keeps telling me that she is doing fine on her own and I know she has good neighbors and friends who look after her.

My mom has always seemed younger than her age because she has taken good care of herself. Because of that, I’m trying to figure out what are normal signs of aging and what aren’t. Can you give me a few suggestions on what to look for on my holiday visit home this month?


Dear Darlene:

We receive a lot of emails and phone calls from adult children asking this same question every holiday season! Parents often know how busy their adult children are with their own families and careers. They don’t want to “worry” them with what they perceive to be small problems.

What you want to look for on your visit are signs of change. To assess how an aging parent really is when you visit this holiday season, you should specifically watch for and pay attention to:

  • Unintentional weight gain or weight loss
  • Change in how well they are managing personal care
  • Bumps and bruises on their arms, legs and head that could indicate falls
  • Trouble carrying on a conversation
  • Forgetfulness or confusion
  • Change in their disposition or personality
  • Difference in how much or how little they sleep
  • Condition of their house such as odors or trash piled up
  • Problems managing finances such as unpaid bills on the counter or calls from creditors

These are just a few of the signs that may indicate your mother needs a little extra help. It might be a good idea to ask her if she has had a wellness visit with her primary care physician this year. If she hasn’t, encourage her to schedule one for the time when you are home so you can go with her.

It might also benefit you to learn more about senior care and the options available for your mother. Our Resource Center and our Blog both contain helpful information for adult children of an aging loved one.

Please let me know if you have any more questions, Darlene. I hope you and your family enjoy a happy holiday together in northern Michigan!



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