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Do you have concerns about your elders?

Area expert on senior care offers some suggestions on how to help

Portland senior care expert, national speaker and author Suzanne Roberts has worked with thousands of adult children and their parents, helping them navigate the challenges that come with aging.

Owner of Home Instead Senior Care serving areas of Portland and Lake Oswego, Roberts authored 'Coping in New Territory: The Handbook for Children of Aging Parents.' With a degree in human services and experience in the fields of counseling and intervention, she serves as a guest instructor at the School of Geriatrics at Portland State University and Marylhurst University. Her speaking schedule, which includes lectures, book signings and media interviews, takes her across the country. Learn more about Roberts at www.suzanneroberts.net .

Roberts makes this suggestion: If you spent time with your aging parents this holiday season, think back on what you saw.

Mentally take note of signs you might have seen that indicated physical and mental changes that may be putting your mom and dad at risk.

'It's not unusual for the phones at senior care companies to ring off the hook in early January,' said Roberts. 'That's when adult children seek advice after seeing troubling changes in their parents or other senior loved ones during family get-togethers.'

Weight loss, unkempt appearance, household clutter, and mood swings are among the indicators, she said.

These warning signs and others can indicate physical and mental impairments that require immediate attention, including dementia, depression, malnutrition, vision and hearing loss, arthritis and joint problems, and other serious, age-related health issues.

'If you have concerns, talk with your parents and get to the heart of the issue,' she said. 'For example, their weight loss may indicate a serious illness or may simply mean their dentures aren't fitting properly.'

In some cases, they may not realize there are problems, Roberts said, 'And if they do, they may be relieved that you are concerned and willing to help.'

If you didn't make it home for the holidays this year, plan a visit as soon as possible, said Roberts.

'Seniors may not admit over the phone that something is wrong, fearing a loss of independence,' she said. 'But assure them that there are other alternatives, including calling on trusted friends and family members for help, or hiring an in-home care and companionship service that assists them with the tasks of daily living and serves as a second set of eyes when family members can't be there.'

Even assistance with simple tasks like meal preparation, light housekeeping, and medication reminders often is the difference between staying home and going to a senior facility.

'In-home care will allow parents to remain independent and age in the environment that's most familiar to them,' said Roberts.

For more information, contact Home Instead Senior Care at 503-248-0695.

Ten warning signs that seniors need help

Here are warning signs from Home Instead Senior Care in Portland that could indicate seniors need help in the home. Many of these red flags could indicate physical and mental impairments that need immediate attention.

Clutter. Are bills piling up? Is the house unkempt or the yard overgrown?

Personal Appearance. Are their clothes stained and dirty? Are they neglecting their personal hygiene?

Bruises. Are there bruises that may indicate problems with balance? Are they unable or unwilling to walk long distances or down stairs?

Weight Loss. Are they losing weight? Is an illness or mobility issue preventing them from eating properly?

Mood Changes. Do they seem withdrawn or blue? Are their moods drastically different? Do they appear unsettled and out of sorts?

Isolation. Are they forgoing social outings with friends or skipping church services and doctors appointments?

Scorched Pots and Pans. Is forgetfulness or dementia causing the senior to neglect dinner cooking on the stove?

Stained carpets and floors. Are there food and drink stains on floors indicating mobility problems?

Spoiled food. Is there spoiled or expired food in the refrigerator, freezer or cupboards? Are seniors neglecting proper nutrition by purchasing convenience foods?

Medications. Are they taking their medications? Are medications expired? Are they forgetting to refill medications?

Source: Home Instead Senior Care, 503-248-0695 or www.homeinstead.com/266 .