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Watching for signs of decline

Golden Living
An elderly loved one is most likely to maximize their independence by facing the issue directly, rather than ignoring or denying it.

In this most unusual year, it may have been a while since you’ve seen an elderly relative or friend. With Dutchess County reopening, you finally have a chance to see them, but you may notice they’ve developed difficulty taking care of themselves.  The Office for the Aging (OFA) is ready to help seniors and caregivers negotiate this delicate topic.

Seniors are understandably afraid to lose their independence. Still, an elderly loved one is most likely to maximize their independence by facing the issue directly, rather than ignoring or denying it. 

There’s a distinct difference between a senior needing a little extra help with a few household tasks, and needing 24/7 care at a nursing home or assisted living facility. A few hours of home care or other assistance goes a long way to keeping them safely and happily at home, and as independent as possible. The important thing is to address the issue quickly and map out a plan of care.  

Here are a few of the most common warning signs a senior may need help:

• Poor eating habits: This can include not eating regular meals, weight loss, lack of appetite or spoiled foods not thrown away.  Consult with their physician first; depression can often be the cause of poor eating habits.

• Poor hygiene: Unpleasant body odor, infrequent showering or bathing, poor grooming, neglected nails and teeth and wearing dirty clothes are hallmarks of poor hygiene.  

• Neglected home: A dirty living space, extreme clutter, dirty laundry piling up, a strong smell of urine in the house and partially eaten food left out are all signs an elder needs assistance.  

• Changes in behavior: Watch for out-of-character behavior like unusual loudness or quiet, paranoia, agitation, repeated phone calls at all hours or extreme mood swings. Watch for uncertainty or confusion when performing tasks that should be familiar.

• Isolation: Be aware if your normally socially active older adult has suddenly lost interest in keeping in touch with family or friends, or in social, religious, recreational and/or civic activities.

• Unexplained injuries:  Burns or injuries from weakness, forgetfulness or misuse of alcohol or medications should concern you. If your loved one still drives, look for unexplained dents or scratches on their car.

• Forgetfulness: Are bills piling up without getting paid or being paid twice? Are prescriptions remaining unfilled, or are they taking more than prescribed? Is mail left around unopened? Newspapers unread or appointments missed?  

• Mobility issues: Are they having trouble getting up from a seated position or having difficulty with walking, balancing or getting in or out of the car?

If you aren’t sure where to turn for help, the Dutchess County Office for the Aging may be able to assist you. Visit  www.dutchessny.gov/aging for a comprehensive list of resources, or call 845-486-2555.


Golden Living is prepared by the Dutchess County Office for the Aging Director Todd N. Tancredi. For more information, call 845-486-2555, email ofa@dutchessny.gov or go online, to www.dutchessny.gov/aging.

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