As families prepare to gather for the holidays, local senior care experts are encouraging adult children to be prepared to address any physical changes that may have occurred in their senior loved ones -- changes that may indicate they need assistance.

"The holidays are a great time to really observe and see how mom and dad are doing," said Sharon Massafra, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Northern Fairfield, Southern Litchfield and Northwest New Haven counties.

"Even if you meet with some resistance when gently confronting a loved one about potential issues you may observe during your visit, it is in both your and your loved one's best interest to find a solution that can help keep him or her safe and independent at home."

Massafra recommends looking for the following signs that could threaten your loved one's independence:

Pain: Does your mother now pull up a stool by the sink to peel the potatoes? Does she wince in pain when she bends down?

If you notice any red flags, gently ask her if everything is all right.

Even if she tries to pretend she's managing fine, consider helping her make a doctor's appointment "just to be sure."

Memory: Does your father have trouble recalling events from earlier in the day? Has he told you the same story over and over? You may want to keep a list of concerns to bring up with his primary-care physician.

Depression: If you see any hints of irritability, sadness or sleep difficulties, these could be signs of depression.

Depression can be a problem for seniors and should be checked out by a doctor or mental health care professional if concerns exist.

Social engagement: Ask your mother to tell you about her friends. Social seniors generally have a healthier and more optimistic outlook on life. If she doesn't have a strong social network, look into community activities that she may enjoy.

Be sure to address any concerns about mobility with your senior's physician.

Safety: If your father has more difficulty walking, make sure he has a cane, walker or the proper support; remove throw rugs or other potential tripping hazards; and look into installing grab bars and no-slip strips where needed.

Housekeeping: As seniors experience declining health, they may have more trouble keeping up with the housework.

If you notice the house looks more unkempt than usual, consider senior care services that include light housekeeping.

Medication: Try to notice if your senior loved one is taking his or her prescribed medications at the appropriate time (e.g., mealtime or before bed) and if the pill box is organized.

If he or she is not keeping a reliable medication schedule, you may want to look into home-care services that offer medication reminders.