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Warning Signs to Look for When Connecting with Older Relatives Over the Holidays

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The approaching holiday season usually means making plans on visiting our elderly loved ones. For some families who live far away, these visits might be the only opportunity to see their loved ones in person. But this year with the coronavirus, some families may gather together but others will have to find different ways to share the holiday joy.

If you are not able to spend face to face time with your elderly loved one this holiday, make sure to schedule time for safe communication so they won’t feel left out. Phone calls are the most commonly used method, but today apps such as Zoom and FaceTime, allow everyone to connect using video and audio. With these apps you get to see the ones you love when you can’t see them in person.

No matter how you connect with your elderly loved one, it is important to listen and pay attention to any changes in their behavior or mood that might indicate a struggle with depression or other health issues outlined below. If you suspect that they are struggling, encourage them to speak with their physician and consider the need for extra care at home.

Changes in Balance and Mobility
As you spend time together, pay attention to how your loved one walks and moves around. If they are having difficulty walking or seem unsteady, there a greater risk of a fall that could cause an injury or worse. If you see any changes in coordination or mobility, an appointment with their physician to pinpoint the cause is important. Together you can research what options are available to keep them safe and mobile, such as mobility aids or physical therapy.

Weight Loss
Some weight loss in the elderly over 70 can be due to the normal aging process or, if they are overweight, the loss of some pounds can be a good thing. But an unintentional weight loss of 5% to 10% over a couple of months can be concerning. Some possible causes of unintentional weight loss could be depression, dementia, or cancer. Even certain medications they may be taking could cause a change in appetite that would result in weight loss. If you notice your loved one has lost weight, it is worth scheduling an appointment to discuss it with their physician.

Self-Neglect of Their Emotional and Physical Well-Being
When elderly adults are not able physically or emotionally to take care of themselves, this is self-neglect. When visiting, be alert for signs of self-neglect which can include:

  • Malnourishment from not eating enough healthy food.
  • Withdrawing from social interaction and activities. Loss of interest in hobbies.
  • Not taking personal care of themselves, such as not bathing or wearing dirty clothing.
  • Not taking care of their home.
  • Not getting medical care they might need.

Home Environment
If visiting your loved one in their home, it’s a good idea to take a walk through their home for any unsafe conditions that might require attention.

  • Make sure rooms are free of clutter and other items that could cause a fall.
  • Check that stairways and hallways are well lit.
  • Add railings to stairways if needed.
  • Check out our Safety at Home Blog for more suggestions for home safety.

Also, pay attention to the state of their surroundings. If they have always kept their home neat and organized, but now there is excess clutter and dirt, it could indicate a problem.

If you’re not sure if your loved one would benefit from extra care at home, take By Your Side’s Home Care Quiz to find out which type of care would be best for them.

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