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Does an Older Family Member Need Help?

You accept that your parents or family friends are getting older, but you may wonder how to provide the best care for them, in your unique situation. As the holidays draw closer, the time may be right to pay particular attention to your older relatives and how they’re managing everyday tasks and responsibilities. You may want to consider whether changes need to be made to keep your family members thriving and safe.

Noticing Changes in Your Family Members

When you see your family only on holidays and special occasions, it may be harder (or much easier) to detect potential problems. And if your parents are still living together, keep in mind that they may compensate for each other’s weaknesses, making it easy to miss the changes during brief visits.

In earlier stages, memory loss issues may not be present all the time. Some days or times of day may be better than others.

When it comes to mental changes —Alzheimer’s or other forms of memory loss—there are certain signals to look for:

Experts suggest you seek help, but not jump to conclusions. If several of these things are happening with your family member, go with them to talk to their doctor. A medical evaluation may reveal that a medical condition or medications are causing the unusual behavior.
Stress, depression, nutritional deficiencies, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses may also cause memory loss. You may wish to explore this issue further by reading The Complete Eldercare Planner, by Joy Loverde. Updated and Revised, 2009, published by Random House.

Seeking Help From Local and Online Resources

If you see some worrisome changes in your parents’ behaviors, involve other siblings or family in the discussion. While it may seem like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, you don’t have to be alone.

There are a wealth of resources available, both online and from local social service and governmental organizations. You might seek advice about senior services and concerns from the Cook County Suburban Area Agency on Aging at 800-699-9043 or see their website at www.suburban-age.org.

You can reach the Chicago Department on Aging at 312-744-4016 to ask for printed materials or advice. Go online to www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/ofinterest/res/senior.html to find the list of their services for seniors.

Additionally, a number of not-for-profit organizations have services for older adults. You might check with local faith communities who sponsor retirement housing and other services—two of the largest are Catholic Charities and the Jewish Federation of Chicago. You can reach Catholic Charities Senior Citizens’ clearinghouse at (773) 583-9224 or see their list of senior-oriented services at www.catholiccharities.net/services/senior_case_management.

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago offers a directory of their services, including a printed “Guide to Jewish Living,” at www.juf.org/guide/default.aspx. Their phone number is 312-357-4848.


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Boomers Resource Guide is a special supplement to the Senior Citizen's Guide