By Darlynn Morgan, Newport Beach Elder Attorney

One of the greatest blessings of the holiday season is visiting with friends and loved ones that we don’t normally get to see throughout the year.  For some that means visiting with aunts, uncles, cousins and friends over a lively family dinner.  For others, the holidays are the only opportunity to share intimate time with parents or siblings who live out of state.

Yet regardless of who you fellowship with this time of year, the holidays are an excellent time to pay close attention to aging relatives and note any changes that may indicate the need for increased care.   This is especially important for people who have aging relatives that live alone or do not have a solid family support system at their disposal.

So what exactly should you be paying attention to as you visit with elderly family and friends?  Here’s a brief list of warning signs that may indicate your loved one needs additional help around the house or increased medical care:

–          Forgetfulness

–          Confusion

–          Neglect of physical appearance or basic hygiene

–          Neglect of medical needs

–          Trouble performing routine tasks or chores

–          Personality changes

–          Sudden money trouble due to inability to handle affairs

–          Unsteadiness, clumsiness or recent history of falling

–          No longer responds to sounds or sudden loud noises

–          Wearing inappropriate clothing based on the weather

–          Has trouble answering simple questions

If your loved one displays any of the signs above, it’s important to address the situation immediately following your holiday festivities.   If you don’t feel comfortable going directly to your aging loved one, talk with other family members and see if they too noticed the same unusual behaviors or warning signs.  From there you can approach your loved one together and determine how you can best be of assistance in getting them the level of care (i.e. family oversight, home health care, nursing home care) that they now require.

Furthermore, if your loved one is showing signs that he or she may require assisted living or nursing home care in the future, it’s equally important to meet with a Newport Beach elder attorney to ensure they have the proper documentation in place (i.e.  a power of attorney and living will) should someone ever need to make financial or medical decisions on their behalf.

Your Newport Beach elder attorney will also advise you on proactive ways to shield your loved one’s assets should they ever require nursing home care.  This area of the law, typically referred to as Medi-Cal (Medicaid) planning, is a very important step in making sure your loved one can qualify for financial assistance without having to sell or give away everything they own in the process.

Yet it all starts with simply observing your loved one’s actions and appearance over the holiday season to make sure they are not displaying a need for increased care.  If you determine your aging loved does need more help or should no longer be living on their own, you can then work together as a family to determine the next best steps in making sure your loved one is properly attended to for the remainder of his or her life.