The holidays are a great time for catching up with loved ones and visiting family. If you have elderly parents, it can also be a time to watch for signs of decline in their health or living situation.

Here are a few things to keep an eye out for when visiting your loved ones. For legal assistance with estate planning or nursing home planning with Medicaid, we recommend reaching out to a Grand Rapids elder law attorney or Medicaid law attorney near you.


When you visit with your parents for the holidays, pay attention to if they’re wearing stained clothing or if they have noticeable body odor. These are both signs that your parents aren’t taking care of their personal hygiene.

Keep in mind that just because your parents were doing well the last time you saw them, they may not be doing as well today. It’s not uncommon for adult children to notice a sudden health decline in elderly parents. Unwashed clothes and poor personal hygiene can be signs of dementia, declining health, or depression.


One of the signs of failing health in elderly parents is weight loss. Part of the aging process is a decreased sense of smell and taste. When coupled with fatigue, your parents may have lost interest in cooking and eating. Sudden weight loss can also be a sign of medical conditions, which will need to be addressed by their health care providers. If you notice appetite loss in your elderly parents, you’ll want to quickly find a solution so they can return to eating a healthy diet.


If your parents’ yard or house becomes more and more unkempt, there could be a problem. Many elderly people neglect housework because they are too tired or physically impaired to manage the responsibilities of a homeowner. While it’s not uncommon for elderly people to lose energy and motivation for housework, it can create poor living conditions and other hazards for your parents. For example, a cluttered house increases your parents’ risk for falling.

If your parents aren’t able to keep up with housework, it may be time to consider hiring someone to help with the house upkeep. Don’t overlook the signs of physical and mental decline. An unkempt home could be one of the many signs your aging parent needs help.


Major changes in mood or social interaction might indicate depression, hearing loss, or other health concerns. Encourage your aging parents to maintain friendships and stay involved in activities they’ve always enjoyed. It is easy for parents to become isolated in the winter months as people don’t like to drive on icy roads. However, social interaction is extremely important and should be maintained if at all possible.


Are your parents walking differently or having trouble getting around the house? Is it more difficult for them to go up or down steps or get up from the table? Mobility issues can indicate an increased risk of falling. If your loved one is having difficulty getting around, it might be time to suggest a cane, walker, or wheelchair.


It is very important to prioritize. Be careful not to overwhelm your parents by mentioning every single thing you noticed during your last visit. If you visit infrequently, you may be shocked to see decline in every area. Observe and consider, then prioritize what is most important to address first. Elderly parents can be reluctant to change and pushing too hard too fast may backfire.

Be Respectful

Speak to your parents in a respectful tone. Gently share your concerns, but be careful not to do so in an aggressive or demeaning way. This could cause them to get defensive and end any quality conversation you may have.

Point Out Safety Issues

Point out safety issues you have noticed in their home and lifestyle. If they agree, talk about a way to find solutions to this problem so they can stay in their home as long as is possibly safe. This will help them feel in control of their situation and more likely to cooperate.

Make Sure Parents Continue Going To Doctor Appointments

Encourage your parents to continue with their scheduled doctor appointments so the doctor can monitor for depressiondementia, or other medical issues. If your parents are unresponsive, consider calling their doctor to share your concerns so they know what to watch for at the next visit.

Use Your Resources

If you recognize the signs and symptoms of declining health in your parents and are a bit overwhelmed about where to start, here are a few great resources to check out:

  • West Michigan Healthcare Network
  • Caregivers Resource Network
  • Disability Advocates

The elder law attorneys grand rapids mi at the Law Offices of Sean Patrick Cox PLLC work hard to make sure you or your loved ones are financially prepared for retirement and old age. If you are interested in scheduling a free legal consultation, feel free to call either of our offices in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.