Holidays the time to check on senior relatives

Published: Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 11:59 a.m. CDT

As families gather for the holidays, local senior care experts encourage adult children to be prepared to address any physical changes that may have occurred in their senior loved ones.

“The holidays are a great time to really observe and see how Mom and Dad are doing,” said Wayne Slagle, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving DeKalb, Ogle and Lee Counties and the western portion of Kane County. “Even if you meet with some resistance when gently confronting a loved one about potential issues you may observe during your visit, it is in both your and your loved one’s best interest to find a solution that can help keep him or her safe and independent at home.”

Slagle recommends looking for the following signs that could threaten independence.

• Pain. Does your mother now pull up a stool by the sink? Does she wince when she bends down? Even if she pretends she’s managing fine, consider helping her make a doctor’s appointment “just to be sure.”

• Memory. Does your father have trouble recalling events from earlier in the day? Has he told you the same story over and over? You may want to keep a list of concerns to bring up with his primary care physician.

• Depression. If you see any hints of irritability, sadness or sleep difficulties, these could be signs of depression. Depression can be a problem for seniors and should be checked out by a doctor or mental health care professional.

• Social engagement. Ask your mother to tell you about her friends. Social seniors generally have a healthier and more optimistic outlook on life. If she doesn’t have a strong social network, look into community activities that she may enjoy.

• Safety. If your father has more difficulty walking, make sure he has a cane, walker or the proper support; remove throw rugs or other potential tripping hazards; and look into installing grab bars and no-slip strips where needed.

• Housekeeping: As seniors experience declining health, they may have more trouble keeping up with the housework. If you notice the house looks more unkempt than usual, consider senior care services that include light housekeeping.

• Medication: Try to notice if your senior loved one is taking his or her prescribed medications at the appropriate time and if the pill box is organized. If he or she is not keeping a reliable medication schedule, you may want to look into home care services that offer medication reminders.

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