The holidays are all about fun, food – and family.

According to a study conducted by the National Alliance of Caregiving and AARP, 15 percent of the estimated 34 million Americans who provide care to older parents or family members live an hour or more away from them.

Many of these caregivers only see their family members during the holidays, having relied until then on phone conversations or check-ins by neighbors or church members to stay up to date on their family member’s health.

Older adults aren’t always forthcoming about their health when speaking with their adult children over the phone, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. That’s why the holidays are an important time to take stock of their general well-being – and pay attention to their physical and mental health.

“Unfortunately, when they come home, often times these adult children see a marked decline in the older family member’s health and general well-being,” Robert Garvey, outreach coordinator for Masonic Village Home Health in Elizabethtown, Pa., said.

During this year’s holiday gatherings, be sure to look for some of the following warning signs that a loved one may be struggling and need extra help at home:

  • The refrigerator contains expired or moldy food.
  • The house is in disarray when it’s usually tidy.
  • The family member’s personal hygiene is lacking.
  • The family member has dramatic weight loss or gain.
  • The family member is expressing mood swings.

“These are all clues that you might need to start paying attention to,” Robert said. But don’t panic. “If you come home and mom and dad are not doing well, that doesn’t mean you have to immediately move them in with you or to a retirement community.”

There are several home-based services they may qualify for, such as home health or home care:

  • Home Health – Includes skilled nursing care, physical therapy and/or occupational therapy. This service needs to be prescribed by a physician and is covered by insurance.
  • Home Care – Includes anything from companionship, meal preparation and transportation to someone helping with light house cleaning, hygiene and laundry. This is private care and not typically covered by insurance.

In extreme cases, your loved one might qualify for hospice care. This service is covered by insurance.

Remember, the holidays are for enjoying friends and loved ones. Spending some time before visiting mom and dad educating yourself on the care options available will help you relax and appreciate the holiday memories you are making.

For advice on what services may benefit your loved one, contact Masonic Village Home Health today.