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Home for the Holidays?

Adventures in Eldercare December 2011

Home for the Holidays? Whether you’re going across town or across the country, holiday visits to parents and older relatives are a perfect opportunity to assess how they’re doing. Even though they assure relatives and friends that they’re fine, some older adults may be having difficulties in one or more areas of their lives.

Some changes, such as appearance, reflexes and physical or mental health, may be obvious. Others may require looking into the refrigerator, the bank account and other aspects of the older person’s life. Keep in mind that issues may be connected, as when physical limitations or lack of transportation make it difficult to shop, cook, clean or visit friends.

Look for these physical and emotional changes:

• Changes in functional abilities, including walking and taking care of themselves • Personality changes such as depression or withdrawal • Changes in eating habits, such as weight loss, lack of interest in food or difficulty preparing meals because of physical limitations • Neglecting personal hygiene, resulting in wearing dirty clothes, body odor, bad breath, neglected nails and teeth, sores on the skin • Physical problems such as injury marks resulting from general weakness, forgetfulness or misuse of alcohol or medications

• Signs of social isolation because of death or illness of friends or relatives, and inability to get out to be with people • Decreasing or stopping participation in activities that were important such as social groups, dining with friends or attending religious services • Changes in relationship patterns to the point that friends and neighbors have expressed concern • Neglecting the home so it is not as clean and sanitary as in the past; old food in the refrigerator • Forgetfulness resulting in unopened mail, unpaid bills, not filling prescriptions or taking medications as prescribed, missing appointments

Discuss these insurance and financial issues:

• Mishandling finances, such as not paying bills or paying them more than once; losing, hiding or giving away money or other valuables • Making unusual purchases such as large numbers of magazine subscriptions or increased purchasing from television advertisements

It is never easy to discuss these types of issues, but they are vitally important to the physical health, safety and financial health of your older loved one. If the whole family is together it is the perfect time to bring siblings into the discussion. Aging does not just affect the individual, the aging of the individual affects the family. Many times simply discussing the issue can help the senior to modify their behavior. There are also many resources in the community; meals on wheels, senior support services, CCAC. You can even have a specialist in falls come out to the home and inspect it for possible fall hazards. Companies like Victoria Eldercare have numerous care options to help as well. The main thing to remember is that doing nothing is not an option, and open dialogue with the aging person and taking corrective action is essential.

Dr. Bruce Veltri operates Victoria Eldercare, a non-medical home care agency matching exceptional care-givers with elderly seniors, to help them maintain independence and remain safely in their own home. Victoria Eldercare can be contacted by phone, 519-429-2644 or the web-site,

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