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Warning signs

As you visit older, frail or chronically ill loved ones during the holidays, experts say you should look for the following signs that suggest the need for a greater level of care.

Things are out of place: Once-meticulous loved ones have changed. Clutter is obvious. The stovetop is grimy. Laundry has piled up. The bed isn’t made and mom made it daily for at least 50 years.

Food is absent: The refrigerator and cupboards are nearly bare; expiration dates on foods have long passed.

Foul odors: Food has spoiled or signs of incontinence are obvious.

Weight loss is apparent: Raises questions about what, and how often, someone is eating.

Damaged motor vehicles: Are there noticeable signs of scrapes or dents?

“I don’t want to turn people into detectives over the holidays,” said Sarah Harlock, who chairs the Erie County Caregiver Coalition. “But if you have a sense that something’s off or something’s not quite right, I encourage people to ask the question, ‘How are things going and what may make something a little bit easier for you, whether that’s grocery delivery, a Meals on Wheels program, or assistance with yardwork?’ If the question needs to be put off to early in the new year, follow through – and keep your eyes out for changes.”

Ten warning signs of dementia

Memory loss that disrupts daily life

• Challenges in planning or solving problems

• Difficulty completing family tasks at home, work or leisure

• Confusion with time or place

• Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships

• New problems with words in speaking or writing

• Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

• Decreased or poor judgment

• Withdrawal from work or social activities

• Changes in mood and personality

Sources: Alzheimer’s Disease Assistance Center of WNY, Alzheimer’s Association

Related stories: Read a list of caregiver resources, including books and DVDs, Page 10

Next week: Respite care programs help caregivers and their loved ones

On the Web: read more perspective on talking to loved ones about long-term health at