The holidays bring families together. It's a time to catch up, but it's also an ideal time to check up on older loved ones' safety and well-being.
Senior health experts, as well as organizations such as AARP and the National Institute on Aging, suggest you talk to your aging parents or loved ones about their mental, physical and environment needs, while watching for signs they may need more assistance.
Be mindful of changes in mood, health and the overall appearance of your loved one and of his or her home.
“Determining if your loved one needs additional help is a big decision,” said Dr. Andrew Dentino, a geriatrician with OU Physicians Senior Health.
Dentino said a decline in physical health is sometimes evident by an unusual weight loss or gain, balance problems, incontinence, forgetfulness or wandering off.
Perhaps there has been a decline in hearing or vision that should be addressed.
Warning signs might include having difficulty hearing you or having the television or radio playing very loudly.
“When it comes to our older loved ones, warning signs can be subtle,” Dentino said.
“Many older adults are reluctant to bring issues to your attention. So it's important for you to be aware of changes in health or behavior.
“Is your loved one using objects or furniture to maintain his or her balance? Are his or her clothing fitting more loosely that in the past? Does he or she seem to become confused more easily? These may point to the need for further evaluation.”
Be aware of self-neglect warning signs too. Dentino said these may include not taking medications properly, poor hygiene, not wearing suitable clothing for the weather or not maintaining housekeeping or safe cooking.
In addition, an older loved one also may show decreased interest in favorite activities like reading or maintaining friendships and may become sad or lonely.
If you notice anything that raises a red flag, Dentino said it is important to visit with your loved one's health care provider. “He or she can help you better assess your loved one's overall health and other needs,” he said.
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