(Part 2 of 2) Early recognition that an elder may need assistance allows for proper planning and preparations (i.e. increased number of options, improved quality of care, and less expense).  Here are a few things to look for during your next visit:

5. Attitude and Disposition. See if their personality or disposition has changed.  Are they unusually quiet (or alternatively upbeat), has that changed?  Are they lethargic or showing signs of depression?  Pay special attention to how they act or react to various stimuli. For example, if they seem uninterested when talking about a topic that would normally make them animated (ex: money, sports, politics etc.).  Patterns are important because we all have moments of distraction or bad days. 

6. Telephone/FaceTime.  Communicate regularly & face-to-face whenever possible.  When visiting isn’t possible telephone calls or FaceTime can provide insights into an aging person’s health status.  Contact them on a regular basis and pay attention to the “flow” of the conversation.  Notice whether they are engaged in the conversation; speak at an appropriate speed and volume.  Do they follow and understand the topics that are discussed?  Essentially, try to determine whether you can have a normal conversation with them.  If you are concerned, a simple way to “test” your loved one is by asking them the same series of questions in different conversations.  See whether they remember you asking the questions, and also if they provide the same responses.

7. Ask Direct Questions.  Finally, don’t forget one of the most powerful tools in any caregiver’s toolbox: asking direct questions.  To be effective it has to be done with care, sensitivity, and in a way that allows them to maintain their dignity.  When done properly, this “conversational” approach removes the guesswork and lets the person know you care about them.  It also allows your loved one to express their sincere appreciation that you’ve taken an interest in them and their wellbeing.  Note: even when they don’t say it, they ALWAYS appreciate you looking after them. And, as an added bonus, you feel great.

For more information and additional tips please follow me on Twitter @MrEldercare101 and regularly visit the http://MrEldercare101.com site.  Good luck on your caregiving journeys.

Submit questions or ideas for eldercare articles you’d like to see at: Questions@mreldercare101.com