By Derrick Y. McDanielMr. Eldercare 101

The “holiday season” gets underway this weekend and many people are traveling to see loved ones for the first time since the beginning of the Covid Pandemic.  This is a festive and exciting time to reconnect with family and friends.  Both time and the Covid pandemic may have negatively impacted older adult’s physical and mental health.  While enjoying your time together here are 5 signs your aging loved ones may be at the age/stage where they’ll require more assistance.  Said another way, welcome to “eldercare”.  

Below are “indicators” your aging loved one either now, or soon, may need more assistance from you:

  1. Signs around the house. If the house is normally well-maintained look for signs that regular cleaning may not be occurring. Pay special attention to the living areas. Look for stacks of, or unopened mail. This might indicate someone is having difficulty seeing or is depressed.  Also, look for things like laundry or dishes piling up. The weight of the clothes, difficulty loading the dishwasher, or standing for extended periods could be responsible.  Most likely these tasks are becoming too difficult, and some level of intervention may soon be necessary.   
  2. Eating regularly/properly. If not during Thanksgiving, then soon, schedule a meal with the elder. In their home is best (if it can be arranged without arousing suspicion). Watch how, what, and how much they eat.  See whether they are capable of SAFELY preparing food for themselves (more on this topic in my “Keeping Elders Safe In Their Homes article).  Ask them to help prepare the meal.  This will enable you to see how long they can stand and their ability to manage simple cooking and/or cleaning tasks.  If helping you is difficult, then you can assume it will be difficult for them to maintain proper eating habits and nutrition when alone.  Remember, this may be critically important because older people are likely to be taking medications which often require food.
  3. Walking.  Take a walk with your aging loved one.  It’s a great way to catch up and fresh air is good for everyone.   See how steady they are on their feet, how far they can walk, and whether being on their feet for an extended period of time causes any residual issues.
  4. Driving.  Inspect their car when you visit and if possible go for a ride together (with them driving). See how they handle the car; whether they maintain the appropriate speed, get frazzled or frustrated easily, and whether they remember to use appropriate signals. If they are having difficulties- for their safety and others on the road-you may need to help find them alternative means of transportation.  Most likely, this will not be a simple or single conversation (see my “Keeping Elders Safe While Driving” article).  
  5. Communications.  When communicating with aging loved ones (in person, telephone or online) pay special attention to their attitude and disposition.  Try to get a sense of how they’re doing.  If they seem quiet or withdrawn this may be an indication that something is wrong – either physically or emotionally. Don’t put too much emphasis on any one statement or interaction, but be mindful and observe whether a pattern is evident.   If a person is not themselves for extended periods it could be any of several things (depression, frustration, loneliness, pharmacological issues, etc.).  If something seems “off” try to have your aging loved one evaluated by a competent medical professional ASAP. 

Hopefully, these tips will be helpful.  For other articles and eldercare educational materials please visit our website at

Enjoy your holiday season and good luck on your care giving journeys.

Derrick Y. McDaniel

“Mr. Eldercare 101”