Wondering about a senior loved one?

On your next visit or during an upcoming holiday, you can evaluate their situation.

Look for these indicators and try these suggestions:

Give a big hug. You can tell if they have gained or lost weight by giving them a hug and consider their strength on their returned hug. Also, look at their personal appearance: Is there a significant change? It can be an indicator of something going on.

Take a glance at the mail. Are the bills unpaid, old and piling up? Are there "thank you's" from different charities and multiple bills or second notices from the same creditor unopened, and is personal mail unopened?

Any of these signs can be indicators of mismanagement of finances, losing interest in personal relationships or succumbing to scammers.

Go for a drive with Mom or Dad. Look for dents, nicks, scratches on the car and on the garage. Are there any warning lights lit on the dashboard indicating the maintenance is neglected? Are there any signs of impaired driving?

Check out the kitchen. Is the refrigerator stuffed with take-out or "Meals on Wheels" containers? Are perishables past their sell-by dates? Are there multiple items that are the same? Are there 10 jars of mayo? Are the appliances working? Are there any signs of fire on or near the stove and cabinetry?

Look around the home. Does it look different than before? Is there more or less clutter? Is the bathroom dirty? Has the housekeeping been neglected? Are plants and animals not taken care of?

Does Mom or Dad have a pill organizer? Take a look at the pill box or prescription organizer. If Mom or Dad pour their own medications, has a day or week's worth of medications been skipped or not taken? Are there multiple looking pills in the same day or time?

Forty percent of people age 65 and older are prescribed five or more medications, according to the American Medical Association. Out of these 40 percent, one third of these folks experience severe and adverse side effects that are caused by improper dosage or an interaction from multiple medications, both over the counter and prescription, leading to falls with fractures, disorientation and inability to urinate, even heart failure.

Overmedication of our seniors is a major problem. As they age, our folks may develop cognitive impairment. Their diminished cognitive capacity limits their ability to keep track of their medications. Their pills can get disorganized. Not knowing which pill to take or which pills they have already taken can land them in the hospital.

These are all indicators your loved one may be in trouble and further investigation may be necessary. It could be a sign of depression, dementia, overall malaise, a change in health or something not so obvious.

If you ask the elder about the above, stay respectful, never be accusatory. If the person becomes agitated, revisit it later.

You can follow up with his or her doctor and/or hire a nurse to make an assessment of person and environment, which can lead to a plan of care and action.

The nurse could then inform the doctor and advise the patient and family about solutions.

Also, set a mental time frame for your next visit depending upon the severity of the change in behavior and the situation.

And remember to enjoy the time with the elder.

Source: "Holidays with Parents." Paula Spencer Scott. Caring.com.

Michael Gold is the owner of GeronNursing & Respite Care, Inc. in New Milford and a member of Senior Care Resources Group. For more information, visit www.seniorcareresourceswestct.com.