Are your relatives safe at home

Holly Couture - Public Education Coordinator, Spectrum Generations

Holiday gathering

Visiting elderly relatives over the upcoming holidays is a good way to see firsthand if they are still managing well in their own homes. These helpful tips can be used as a guide to tell if a little help is needed to keep our loved ones safe, happy, and independent in their own homes

In January, Bridges Home Care, a member of the Spectrum Generations family, always sees an increase in requests for help at home. Why might this be? With life so busy, many extended families look toward the holidays to catch up and spend quality family time together. But frequently, time spent away from older relatives makes it more obvious that changes have occurred and that maybe they aren’t handling things as well as they used to. How can you tell when a little extra help might be beneficial? Follow these tips, collected from,, and our own experience:

Prepare a meal together / look in the fridge. If your family member has things in odd groupings or can’t tell you where things are located, there may be a problem. Is the freezer full of TV dinners and the vegetable drawer empty? Has the milk gone sour? A quick scan can tell you whether your parents are still able to shop for and prepare healthy meals.

Take a Drive. Are they keeping up with basic maintenance? Do they still obey traffic laws or have their ability to react and awareness of their surroundings diminished?

Take a peek at the mail Unopened junk mail is nothing to worry about, but if personal correspondence is piling up unread, that may be cause for concern.

Investigate the bathroom. The bathroom is one place where it's hard to cover up if their ability to keep up with the cleaning is slipping.

Take note of how the pets are doing. Check the plants, too. Your parents' ability to take care of other living things may offer clues to their ability to manage their own care.

Talk to the neighbors. It's worth putting your relatives' safety above a sense of decorum and asking neighbors or parents friends if they've seen signs that your family members are having trouble meeting basic needs.

Identify some benchmarks. The holidays can be a good time to reflect on the previous year and take note of any significant changes. A marked decline from one year to the next may mean it's time to start looking into additional supports.

Follow your gut. If you think that things are a little off – they probably are. But don’t panic, your parents may just need a little extra help and still be able to maintain their independence for years yet.

Go to the source. Bringing up concerns that your relatives may be losing the ability to care for themselves may in fact trigger a holiday-wrecking family blow-out. On the other hand, your relatives just may surprise you. Taking the time to sit down with them and find out what they're worried about and how you can help -- rather than launching into your concerns for them, or what you think they ought to do -- may give you the most useful information of all.

Know your options. Many older adults fear being asked to leave their home at the smallest sign of dependence. Reassure them that there are workable solutions to help them maintain their independence, like help at home. Many home care agencies, including Bridges can provide very basic assistance if that’s all that is needed. Services such as meal preparation, grocery shopping and housekeeping are aimed at supporting independence, not taking it away.

For more information, contact Spectrum Generations Bridges Help at Home at 800-876-9212 or 207-623-0761. or