DEVON, Pa. (WPVI) -- At the holidays, we reconnect with far-flung relatives we might not have seen in a while.
Health experts say it is also a good time to note whether they are healthy and independent, or overwhelmed and need help.
"Be observant, but don't pry," says Steve Rovner, the executive director of Brightview Senior Living in Devon, Pa.
"It's important not to injure their pride," he adds.
Rovner says the most obvious signs of health issues include -
* Weight loss
* Depression or moodiness
* Decline in mobility or stamina
* Memory loss (asking the same questions repeatedly, inability to follow instructions, confusion around time/people/places)
Other signs might be more subtle.
Is the house dirtier or messier than on past visits? Are there dirty dishes in the kitchen, clothes laying around, a messy refrigerator, or food left out of the fridge?
"You may see unpaid bills lying on desks, counters, or tables. That's a red flag," says Rovner.
Watch closely how they walk - steady and strong, or tentative and shuffling.
Conversations with your loved ones can reveal if they have a healthy social network. which is vital to both emotional and physical health.
Are they still getting out and about, and connecting with friends? or are they reluctant to leave home?
How often do they get out, and do they enjoy what they are doing?
"Do they have a support system, or has it changed. And who's in it?", says Rovner.
If you notice issues, gently ask if you can help in some way, or enlist someone to help out.
Elders often brush off assistance, worrying about their home security.
However, if the helpers are from trusted, accredited agencies, it may not be long before your loved ones wonder how they got along without them.
One of the easiest in-home helpers for seniors to accept, says Rovner, are physical therapists.
They can often suggest changes to improve safety, such as removing throw rugs, or increasing light in hallways, stairs, and closets.
Rovner says he usually sees a rise in calls after the new year, after families realize their relatives need help, or even an easier, more secure place to live.
And he expects that again this January, as the Devon Brightview prepares to open its new rental apartment community in April.
Warning signs your older loved ones could be overwhelmed
Tips for checking their health - without prying
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