Oh, Oh… is Mom slipping? Is Dad’s health declining? A “Baker’s Dozen” of Red Flags

When families get together during the holidays after a while of being apart, the changes or decline in health or behavior or even the personality of their elderly parents can be a shock.  This is especially true if members of the family live at great distances from one another and don’t see each other frequently.

So as not to jump to conclusions and assume the worst, here are some things to look for to assess whether you should be consulting their family physician:

  1. Is there clutter in the home that in the past has been almost always in a neat and orderly condition?
  2. Was Mom or Dad formerly meticulously groomed but now seems a bit unkempt?
  3. Have they not been taking care of activities of daily living, such as bathing, cooking, housekeeping, or dressing?
  4. Do you see a marketable weight loss in your parent(s)?
  5. Have there been missed appointments recently or refusals to go to a medical provider?
  6. Do you see evidence of unpaid bills?
  7. Have you noticed that there seems to be some short-term memory problems?
  8. Did you learn of an experience where Mom or Dad got lost?
  9. Have you witnessed Mom or Dad wandering?
  10. Have your parents refused to visit with friends or accompany them on outings?
  11. Have your parents not wanted to go to religious services when previously they were regular attendees?
  12. Did you notice mood swings or have they been angered easily?
  13. Have they been entering contests or shopping on TV channels and maxing out their credit card limits?

You can share this list with siblings during the holidays so that you can compare notes after the holidays are over.  If your experience has some common observations and you have concerns about their health, you should talk to your family physician or a local geriatric care manager who can help you find the assistance you and your parents may need.

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