By Betty Berry, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011

QUESTION: During the holidays, I will be spending some time with my father, who lives out of state. For some time, I have been concerned about him living alone. What signs might indicate that it may be time to seek assistance for him?

ANSWER: A number of activities could be warnings that all is not well in your father’s household.

Look at the home’s appearance. An unkempt or cluttered house can signal housekeeping changes that may be due to a senior being depressed or tired and unable to keep up with the task.

The kitchen might have used dishes and pots and pans piled up. Gas burners might be left burning, maybe with empty pans on them. The refrigerator could be almost empty or contain food beyond its useful life. These situations may indicate depression or some memory loss.

His personal appearance might also provide a warning. Unkempt hair, body odor, failure to change clothes and dressing inappropriately for the weather or social occasions are obvious signs he may be unable to care for himself. These could signal the need for assistance with personal hygiene and could result from loneliness, depression or memory loss.

Another sign of possible trouble can be an accumulation of mail. He may feel overwhelmed by opening mail and paying bills. This, of course, can result in unpaid bills and perhaps be a signal that someone else needs to take over the financial responsibility.

If your father still drives, observe his driving. If you notice a decline in his skills, it may be time to arrange for other transportation. Speeding tickets, dented fenders, and dents and scratches on the car also may indicate driving should be curtailed.

Some seniors who live alone lose interest in eating, while others become reluctant to leave home. Loneliness can cause a person to pull further from friends and family.

Missed medical appointments or social engagements can signal depression or forgetfulness, as can losing track of taking medications. Either condition can result in health problems.

When considering whether some type of assistance is required, you need to have a heart-to-heart conversation. You must listen to what your father considers may be wrong and what he thinks would be the best way to resolve the problem. This will be a very sensitive subject, so it should be a planned meeting when both parties are calm.


Just a reminder: The annual open enrollment for Medicare participants to change their health care coverage for 2012 continues through Dec. 7. The one-stop shops listed below will provide assistance with selecting Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage for 2012. For information and more locations, call 800-434-0222.

Today: Moorpark Active Adult Center, 799 Moorpark Ave., 1 to 4 p.m.

Nov. 9: Simi Valley Senior Center, 3900 Avenida Simi, 1 to 4 p.m.

Nov. 11: Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Other seminars are:

Today: “Understanding Medicare 2012,” boardroom, Thousand Oaks Council on Aging, Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 1 to 2:30 p.m. It will be televised at 1 p.m.

Nov. 9: “Will You Pass Your Next Driving Test?” Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive, 1:30 to 3 p.m. Call 495-6250 for information.

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