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Use the holidays to assess an older loved one's health

Published in Health Care Home, Home Health Services Author: Nancy A. Drange, APRN, CNP, CWON

The holidays may provide more time with a friend or family member than other times of the year, especially if you live a long distance away. But even if you’ve seen each other recently, age-related decline can happen quickly. Talking with other family members and listening to their assessment also can help you get perspective about how an older loved one is doing. Make a point this holiday season to spend time observing him or her and evaluate if any safety or quality of life changes should be made.

Watch for the following red flags:

  • Weight loss. This can be one of the first signs that something isn’t right physically or emotionally. Could it be related to dementia, heart failure, depression, cancer or something else? Is it related to any medications? Is he or she able to get groceries and prepare food? Is there the proper amount of food in the refrigerator? Does he or she have healthy options available?
  • Emotional well-being. Does one seem engaged in conversations? Is there a loss of interest in doing things he or she once enjoyed or a withdrawal from social activities? How is he or she sleeping at night? Is there a change in personal hygiene or home maintenance that could be a sign of something more serious?
  • Medications. Managing multiple medications at a time that have different instructions can be challenging. Is he or she taking their medications and in the correct dosages? Does he or she know why they are taking each medication and any specific instructions associated with it? Are any of the medications out of date?
  • State of their home. The home environment can say a lot. Is the house as clean as it has been in the past? Are there piles of clutter, laundry or unopened mail? With aging comes an increase in balance issues. Falls are the leading cause of injury over the age of 65 and can greatly impact health and quality of life. Proactive measures to limit risk for falls must be taken seriously.

If you have concerns, set up a time after the holidays with other family members to discuss next steps, such as:

Be proactive and don’t wait. Too often families wish they had started the process of getting help earlier. Never realizing how much of a positive difference it made for their family.

CentraCare Health provides a variety of high-quality services for seniors and can help you navigate the next steps for your loved one(s).