With the arrival of Thanksgiving, the holiday season has officially begun. For many families, it is the time of year where they travel and see loved ones they may not have seen for several months. For other families, it may be the part of the year where they spend long stretches of time with their elderly family members. For children of aging adults, the holiday season is a cherished time they can spend with their elderly parents. However, it is also a time of year where children can better assess their elderly parents’ cognitive functioning. If you are going to be spending an extended period of time with an aging loved one it is important to look out for any red flags that may require more assessment or intervention.
Extreme Changes in weight: If you have noticed that your elderly loved ones have lost or gained a significant amount of weight since your last visit you may need to consult a medical professional to assess the potential causes of this change in weight. Extreme weight loss in the elderly could be due to cancer, dementia, heart failure, depression or other serious issues. Weight gain can also be caused by depression, heart disease, and medication. Significant changes in weight can be symptoms of a larger issue that need immediate intervention. In addition, significant weight changes can lead to increased medical problems such as type 2 diabetes.
Changes in Home Environment: If it has been awhile since you have visited your elderly loved one’s residence and noticed their once clean and organized home is a mess with overflowing piles of garbage and uncleaned laundry this could be a sign of declining functioning. Even if your aging loved one was never known to be the cleanest and most organized individual, having them live in a messy and dirty environment could put them at increased risk of falling or getting sick.
If upon visiting your aging loved one you realize that they may need further assessment by a medical expert it will be important to broach the topic carefully. The holiday season is stressful for everyone and adding a serious and important conversation about your aging adults weight, home environment or other concerns can lead them to feel attacked or judged. Therefore you may want to begin the conversation by reviewing with them their previous doctor visits and making a new appointment with their primary care physician where you can voice some of your concerns. If your concerns are very serious, you may have to look into long-term nursing home care with skilled nursing services.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as health advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual medical counsel or consulting your physician.