By Beth Dow, Home Helpers of GA & AL

With the distance between parents and their adult children averaging 280 miles, the holidays are often the only time that families get together for an extended visit.

If you have not seen your parents or older loved ones for a while, this may be a good time to take a close look at how they are aging.

So what behaviors should cause concern? Below are just a few.

Mail: Are there stacks of mail sitting on a desk or table? Unopened mail, past due notices and even stacks of apparently unread magazines, may be a sign that your parent or loved one is having trouble keeping up with bills, or may be spending money recklessly.

Cooking: Does your loved one usually cook or have a special dish that they always make, but this year they didn’t make it? That could be a sign that they can’t remember the recipe, they can’t remember what order to use the ingredients, or the entire process is now just overwhelming to them.

Driving: If your older family member still drives, look around the car and garage for scrapes, scratches, dents and dings that may be cause for concern. Suggest running a quick 
errand and have your loved one drive. Observe his or her driving for any safety concerns.

Function: Keep an eye and ear out for unusual behaviors or comments. Does your loved one seem increasingly forgetful, hard of hearing or visually challenged? Do they appear to be unsteady when walking? If you are with them more than one day, are they changing clothes? Are they repeating the same stories, questions or jokes?

Social: Ask your loved ones about social events and attendance. Do they still go to church? Are they involved in any civic organizations? Do they meet with friends? Do they spend most of their time in their home with no interaction from other people? Is this behavior different from their past behavior?

If you do note areas of concern, but your loved one is not in imminent danger, don’t address your concerns during your visit. Wait. Talk to them later. Let them know of your concerns and be sure to stress your goal is to help them remain independent.

f you need help, on how to begin this conversation, a good place to start is with a Geriatric Care Manager. They are trained to not only help you with the conversation, but will also help you and your loved one decide how to move forward with your findings.

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Beth Dow is a Geriatric Case Manager, a Certified Senior Advisor, a Certified Alzheimer’s Educator and the Founder/Owner of Home Helpers of GA & AL. For more information on how Beth can help you, your family, or to have her speak to your group, contact her at bdow@HomeHelpersHomeCare.com.