Not Always a Hallmark Holiday

When families gather for the holidays there is great anticipation of joyful reunions and the creation of happy memories. Unfortunately, all too often these hopes are disappointed and concerns are raised when families experience noticeable changes in their family members.

Did this holiday season raise concerns about physical and cognitive changes in your family members or friends? Here are some frequently observed changes that should cause family members concern:

• Memory lapses – forgetting important names or events – loss of ability to follow and track in conversation. Repeating things said without remembering that the question or story has already been asked or told.

• Withdrawing from social interaction, in particular large family gatherings, as these are felt to be overwhelming or overstimulating for the senior.

• Mood changes – increased depression or moodiness.

• Unkempt appearance or notable deterioration in hygiene (frequency of bathing) or wearing of unsuitable or unwashed clothing.

• Noticeable change in housekeeping – house not kept up to the standard of customary cleanliness – dishes unwashed, floors not vacuumed, accumulation of dirty laundry and linens unclean.

• Medications not being taken correctly and on time. The importance of taking medications as prescribed cannot be emphasized enough; 68% of hospital admissions for the elderly are the result of medication mismanagement.

• Unexplained bruises or injuries.

• Hoarding of food or other items such as toiletries, newspapers and household items.

• Purchases from television vendors.

• Dents and scrapes on a senior’s car that cannot be explained.

• Spouses “covering” for each other – one spouse compensating for the diminished capacity of the other – finishing sentences, answering questions asked of the other.

• Significant weight loss or gain, signifying the elder individual is not able to feed themselves in a manner that is nutritionally sound.

• Excessive television viewing to the exclusion of human interaction.

If you or other family members have observed such changes in elderly relatives during recent holiday family functions and are concerned for the well being of your parents or senior loved ones, do not discount these changes or wait until your relatives come to serious harm. In the field of senior care, we see far too many elderly individuals who have been significantly harmed or hospitalized because they were neglected by relatives who meant well and did not want to interfere – at significant risk to their loved ones.

Nancy Raske has worked in the senior industry for 13 years. During that time, she has worked with in-home care, assisted living, memory care, hospice and placement services.

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