Making a trip home for the holidays is something most adult children look forward to every year. But for adult children of an aging loved one, the visit sometimes proves quite shocking. An older parent that they thought was managing well on their own really isn’t. Panicked adult children aren’t really sure if the changes they see in a parent are cause for alarm or a normal part of aging.

If you are making the trip home to visit the senior in your life this holiday season, these are 9 warning signs you can look for:

  1. Has there been a change in their personal appearance? That could include poor hygiene, disheveled clothing or a failure to maintain their usual grooming practices.
  2. Do they appear to have gained or lost a lot of weight without trying?
  3. How is their disposition? Have they dropped out of social groups? Are they no longer taking part in hobbies they have always enjoyed? Do they seem suspicious or grumpy?
  4. Does their mental status seem to have declined? Are they able to answer questions you ask them? Do they ask you the same question multiple times? Can they carry on a conversation with you?
  5. Can you tell if their sleep habits have changed? Do you hear them roaming the halls during the night? Are they sleeping during the day or for longer than is typical for them?
  6. What condition is their house in? Do you notice odors? Overflowing trash cans? Foods that are past their expiration date still in the refrigerator?
  7. Do they seem to be taking their medications appropriately? You can check by looking at the date and quantity on the prescription’s label and comparing it with how many pills are left in the bottle.
  8. Is the phone ringing with calls from creditors or collection agencies? Do you find bills stacked up unopened?
  9. Are their belongings getting lost and then turning up in unusual places?

Their primary care physician should be the first stop if you answered YES to more than one or two of these questions. Adult children often leap to the conclusion that their loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, there are other illnesses that can mimic dementia. Some can be easily remedied. But early intervention is usually the key to slowing or reversing the progression of an illness or disease.

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