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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Swan

12 Changes in Elderly Relatives to Look for at Thanksgiving

The seniors who attended lunch at the Community Center on Monday were treated not only to a lovingly-prepared lunch of meatball subs, roasted potatoes and fresh toss salad, but they also received some valuable information to take with them as we head into Thanksgiving.

“It’s not about displaying these signs necessarily,” attorney Catherine Swan told the audience of about thirty people, which included administration from Casey’s Pond and the Routt County Council on Aging.  “It’s about paying attention and noticing if their behavior is really different.”

It’s a common phenomenon that spending a lot of time with a person makes it difficult to notice changes, as they are often gradual and the daily difference is not significant.  The holidays, however, offer a time to visit with relatives that we don’t see as often, and if we’re paying attention, we can keep take measures to protect our loved ones and make sure they are getting the help thyey need.

The signs that Catherine described are the following:



Neglect of physical appearance or basic hygiene

Neglect of medical needs

Trouble performing routine tasks or chores

Personality changes

Sudden money trouble due to inability to handle affairs

Unsteadiness, clumsiness or recent history of falling

No longer responding to sounds or sudden loud noises

Wearing inappropriate clothing based on the weather

Having trouble answering simple questions

Repeating the same information or asking the same questions during short conversations

Catherine stressed that we should use our discretion and good judgment to determine when these behaviors are warning signs. Members of the audience were encouraged to share their own stories of caution about their parents and other loved ones whose changes went unnoticed.

Lindsey Simbeye, of Casey’s Pond, chimed in about falling: “The exercise classes provided by the community are very helpful in preventing falls.”  She also demonstrated safer ways to get in and out of your vehicle as winter finally arrives in Steamboat and parking lots and driveways become slick with ice.

Catherine also stressed the importance of monitoring the financial information of elder loved ones, citing recent incidents in Routt County that have led to fraud.  This is a particularly sensitive area, but if not dealt with, it can have serious consequences not only for the senior but also for future generations.  While the Steamboat Springs Police Department is well-versed in investigating and revealing fraud, you can’t always recoup the lost funds, and it could leave seniors in dire situations.

If you do notice any of the signs listed above and feel they are significant changes for your loved one, you might feel uncomfortable approaching that person directly about receiving extra support.  Still, the time to act is now: you don’t want to wish later, after a fall or a significant financial loss, that you had acted when you noticed the changes.  Talk with other family members and decide on an appropriate course of action that helps your family members understand you come from a position of love and concern.

Changes such as these can be a sign of future need for assisted living or eventual skilled nursing care, and it’s important to know that there are many people on your side when you have concern for a loved one.  Meet with an estate planning attorney who can help you draft incapacity documents such as a Financial Power of Attorney and Healthcare Power of Attorney.  There are steps you can take right away to ensure your loved one is safe and protected.

This Thanksgiving, let’s be grateful for the time with our loved ones, time that we can use to help keep them safe for years to come.

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