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What to look for when visiting an aging relative for the holidays

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The holiday season is a time of year when many families and friends get together. If visiting an aging relative, be sure to notice signs that it may be time to start preparing for their future. Often, by simply observing your elderly relatives while spending time with them, you can notice if they need more help or soon will.

The first and noticeable thing to look for is their appearance. Look to see if they are still capable of dressing, bathing and grooming themselves. Look to see if they wear weather-appropriate clothing and cleanse themselves regularly. By evaluating their appearance, you can tell a lot about whether or not there are underlying conditions going on with your loved one.

Next, look around your senior's medicine cabinet. If you find expired prescriptions that are still full, your loved one may be forgetting or refusing to take their medications. They may also have prescriptions you never knew they were taking. Asking questions about your loved one's health and prescriptions can give you insight into how well their memory is and how capable they are of managing their medications. Based on this, you can assess how much help your loved one needs with managing their medications.

Another way to tell if your senior needs more assistance is by looking around their home. Check to see how clean and clutter free their home is. If there is a lot of clutter, perhaps cleaning is too much for them to handle either physically or mentally. If your loved one was once tidy but now has a cluttered home, this may be a sign they need more assistance. Even though housekeeping is typically an easy chore, it can become a burden and safety hazard for seniors.

It's also important to check into your senior's finances. Managing money for seniors can be a daunting task. They may let bills stack up because they don't know how to manage them or simply forget they are there. Furthermore, some seniors are susceptible to being scammed and coerced into spending money they typically would not spend. If your senior has trouble managing their finances, you may want to help them with their money to save them from financial problems.

Lastly, you should take a look into your loved one's social life. The elderly are especially at risk of feeling depressed and isolated. See if they have any upcoming plans with friends or family and ask what activities they do for fun. Isolation can have devastating effects on health so ensuring that seniors have the quality of life they deserve is critical.

Although discussing health, finances and the future with a loved one is difficult, it is imperative that your family has a plan. By being aware of your loved one's situation and having a plan for their care needs, you can better deal with future transitions. Knowing the health condition of a senior and safeguarding them with early prevention can often reduce medical costs and even save their lives.

-- Mary Ann Steelman is the administrator at Celebration Way, Assisted Living by Americare, located at 895 Union St. in Shelbyville. For more information call (931) 685-6900.What to look for when visiting an aging relative for holidays

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