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Holiday Visits Can Raise Concerns

When families live far away from one another, the holidays may be their only chance to personally observe their older relatives. Age-related declines can happen quickly. Family members who haven’t seen their loved one since last year might be shocked at what they see – a once healthy father looking frail or a mom whose home was well kept now in disarray.

For those family members who have relied on regular telephone calls, the upcoming holidays might be revealing. When family members visit for the holidays it gives them an opportunity to observe a situation through new eyes. The following changes might indicate the need to act to ensure your aging relatives’ safety and good health.

Weight Loss – One of the most obvious signs of ill health, either physical or due to cognition struggles, is weight loss. The cause could be related to a lack of energy to cook, or it could be more serious. Certain medications and aging in general can change the way food tastes. If weight loss is evident, talk with your loved one about your concern and schedule a doctor appointment to discuss the issue.

Balance – It is important to pay attention to how an older adult moves and walks. An older adult who is reluctant to walk or has pain while they move may have muscle or joint problems. If your loved one appears unsteady on their feet there could be a risk of falling. This is a serious problem and could result in a severe injury.

Emotional well-being – Be cautious of obvious and subtle changes in your loved ones’ emotional well-being. You can’t always gauge someone’s spirits over the telephone, even if you speak daily. Take note of signs of depression, withdrawal from activities with others, sleeping patterns, loss of interest in hobbies, lack of basic home maintenance or personal hygiene. All of these are concerns of depression, dementia or other physical ailments including dehydration. If you notice different behaviors with your loved one, be sure to seek medical attention.

Home environment – Pay attention to your loved ones’ surroundings. For example, your parent might have been a stickler for neatness or for paying bills on time. If you discover clutter or mail piled up, a problem might exist. Keep an eye out for other concerns. Scorched cookware could be an example of a stove that was left on. An overflowing hamper could mean your loved one doesn’t have the energy or desire to do laundry. Check prescription bottles for expired dates and make sure medications are being taken as directed.

If you visit your loved one over the holidays and have concerns, Geriatric Care Management can be of assistance in assessing and developing a care plan for your loved one to help ensure their safety and help with decisions about their future. The more systems you have in place, the better peace of mind you’ll experience as you return home from your holiday and future visits.

Kathleen Weston
Preceptor Home Health Hospice

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