December 2, 2021


After another year of Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions, many parts of Australia are slowly starting to open up. This means that for some who are fortunate enough, you may get to spend Christmas with your loved ones.

This may be the first time you will see your older loved ones in at least a year.

Twelve months can produce noticeable changes in the older person, particularly if they have underlying health conditions or cognitive decline. Although you may be in regular contact with your loved ones, if you are not there in person, it may be more difficult to pick up on changes that may be affecting their ability to live independently at home.

If you do have the opportunity to spend time with your ageing parents over the Christmas period, take some time to look at how they are managing at home.

You don't have to be obvious about it and draw attention to what you are doing, but quietly observe how they go about their day, and you should get a good idea of where they are at.

What do you look for?

Physical changes

Has there been any noticeable weight loss? This may indicate difficulty getting groceries, trouble preparing meals, or swallowing issues.

Do they have cuts, burns or bruises on their skin? This may indicate falls or cooking mishaps.

Is their hair washed and brushed?

Do their clothes look clean and neat?

Do they have an odour that may indicate difficulty with personal care or perhaps continence issues?

Are they unsteady on their feet or prone to falls?

Mood and memory changes

Are they repeating themselves frequently?

Do they seem to forget things? People's names, what day it is, what is planned for the day?

Are they sleeping a lot?

Are they confused or withdrawn and not engaging with family members?

Are they easily frustrated or aggressive?

Living arrangements

Does the house look clean?

Are there dirty dishes piled up in the sink?

Are their clothes being washed and dried?

Is the garden tidy or overgrown?

Is there food in the fridge and cupboards? Is it in date or expired?

Is there a noticeable smell in the house or staining on the furniture that might indicate incontinence?

The lists above are not exhaustive but provide a starting point.

If you are concerned about any aspect of your parents' wellbeing, now is the time to gently address this with them.

Be understanding that it may be difficult for them to acknowledge that they need help, and equally difficult to accept help.

Be supportive and willing to help them with the next steps in accessing help at home.

Reassure your older loved ones that accessing support will enable them to continue living relatively independently in their own home for as long as possible.

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