Health Changes in the Elderly to Look for When Visiting Over the Holidays

Oct 29, 2021
Elderly man visiting with his daughter at the holidays

It’s hard to believe but the holidays are almost upon us once again. For many with senior loved ones who don’t live nearby, it’s also time to plan visits and enjoy the season together. To make the most of a visit with a parent or other senior, use the time with them to assess how they are and the state of their health. Here are tips for finding out what’s really going on to be sure they get the help they need.

Weight loss in the elderly —

When you initially see a senior after weeks or months apart, pay attention to immediate impressions, like if they appear thinner. Weight loss that is not intentional can be a sign of bigger problems.

For example, are they getting regular nutritious meals or have they lost interest in food and cooking due to depression or anxiety? Or perhaps, they forget to eat due to memory loss or just can no longer prepare their own food. Other causes of unexplained weight loss can include illnesses like cancer or diabetes. Find out the best steps to take in the blog, “Q&A: What to Do About Unintentional Weight Loss.”

Poor hygiene —

If a senior appears unusually disheveled, unclean, or has body odor, it’s a sign they are no longer able to manage their own personal hygiene. Bathing is one of the hardest things for some seniors since it takes a lot of energy and poses a serious fall risk. Dental hygiene is another area that requires constant care and one that may become a burden if the senior has arthritis, memory loss or diseases like Parkinson’s. Laundry is another possible problem for seniors who have to carry clothes downstairs or forget to wash clothing regularly. The blog, “Personal Hygiene and Its Importance for Seniors,” looks at hygiene problems and solutions for seniors.

Balance and mobility —

Staying safe for seniors is often complicated by balance and mobility issues and the increased risk of falling. But other related problems like the inability to rise from a sitting position, stand for very long, or just get around the home, can make life a challenge for seniors. By observing how well they move, whether they need to hold onto objects to walk, or if they need a hand getting up from a chair are signs that things are amiss. Other concerns may be medications that make them dizzy, generally feeling tired or fatigued, or old injuries any of which can be factors affecting mobility and balance. While the solution may be as simple as getting them a cane or walker, the Harvard Health Publishing blog, “Two questions can reveal mobility problems in seniors,” can help better assess needs.

Mood and behavior changes —

When a normally cheerful, engaged senior is suddenly sad, angry, or just disinterested, it’s a sign that something is going on. Isolation and loneliness are always possible for those who live alone, but changes can be brought on by medication as well as by the onset of dementia, which causes confusion and changes how a person reacts. But seniors with chronic conditions may also be in pain, suffering from poor sleep, or just afraid. To help get to the bottom of it, the article “Behavior & Personality Changes” from the Weill Institute for Neurosciences at the University of California San Francisco, takes an in-depth look at the possibilities associated with dementia, and the Psychiatric Times article, “Recognizing and Treating Geriatric Mood Disorders,” examines mood changes.

Other Health Changes in the Elderly to look for —

A home that is unclean or cluttered is a sign they may need help keeping house. Also, check medications to be sure they are being taken correctly (or at all) and inspect the store of food available on shelves and in the refrigerator for variety and freshness. Expired food or a lack of ample supply can signal a senior is either not able to get more groceries or has lost interest in eating. Also pay attention to signs of substance abuse, something that is becoming more prevalent among seniors and is explored in the blog, “How Addiction is Becoming a Risk to Seniors.”

For an overall look at how to assess a senior and get them the help they need, the AARP article, “How to Assess When an Older Adult Requires Caregiving Assistance,” is another excellent resource.

Ganton’s Countryside is the perfect solution for seniors who need a little or a lot more help. For more information about Countryside, please call Margaret Nagel at (517) 206-5000 or download our brochure to learn about our care levels, cost, and amenities.

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