Slight changes in behavior or personality can be subtle and not easily noticed if you interact with the person frequently. However, many Americans will be visiting with elderly family members during the upcoming holidays and might not have seen their loved ones for several months. Subtle changes can be more easily identified if it has been a period of time since the last interaction. The holidays can be a good time to reassess as to whether your elderly family members may need some additional guidance or assistance due to physical or mental status issues. Try to assess the circumstances and observe the person as they currently are and not as the invincible parent or relative that they have been all of their life. It may be the time for family members to assist the senior with life changes or transitions in living environment or the addition of support mechanisms.
The following is a list of potential warning signs that your family member may need some medical assessment or assistance with activities of daily living:
- Changes in basic personality
- Inability to concentrate on and complete simple to moderate tasks including household chores or paying bills
- Unsteadiness of gait or a history of recent falls
- Loss of important items such as car keys or wallet
- Dressing inappropriately for the season or wearing multiple layers of clothing
- Difficulty in discussing recent and current events
- Repetition of same information during short conversations
- Neglect of their environment or their personal appearance
- Unusual dents to vehicle or the garage
If signs or symptoms such as the above are noticed, assist your family member to seek out assessment and/or intervention to address the concerns. Don’t ignore those signs and symptoms of confusion or personality change as they may be the warning signs of illnesses such as dementia or other acute or chronic illnesses. Many community resources are available to assist family members and seniors and help the senior connect to those resources. Enjoy the holiday season with family while assuring that your aging seniors remain safe and healthy.