Holidays an important time to check up on elderly family members

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SARASOTA - While the holidays can be filled with lots of cheer,  it can sometimes be heartbreaking for children who come home to find their elderly parents struggling.  That's why Senior Helpers, one of the largest in-home senior care companies is advising families this season to watch out for signs their loved one may need some extra help.

For some seniors like Wally Swiderski, being independent has never been a problem.

"I'm doing very well," she told us Thursday.

Swiderski is 93 years old and still exercises with her friends at the Senior Friendship Center in Sarasota.

"We do a lot of things really, a little of everything."

But she doesn't stop there.  Even living on her own Swiderski still does some cleaning and cooks small meals for herself, despite the loss of her husband 5 years ago and no family close to rely on.

"I have no family anymore at all," she said.  "I have only a niece and her family in Germany but they can't come much."

Although Swiderski is doing very without a caregiver, sometimes serious health problems can put other seniors in a dangerous situation without outside help.

"A lot of times when family members are away from each other, they can notice a lot more when they come in to visit, so it's really important to keep an eye out," said Barbara Raskowski, a case manager at Senior Helpers in Sarasota.

Raskowski said there are some red flags you can spot while home for the holidays that can get your loved ones the help they need before it's too late.

"If they just act like it's not there, because it hurts," Raskowski said.  "It hurts to see your family change, but it can be caught and hopefully treated."

Some warning signs that they might need help include a messy house, bills piling up, a difference in the way they walk and talk, even scorch marks on pots and pans, indicating forgetfulness of doing something easy like turning the stove off.

"If they're starting to forget simple stuff like that, then it's probably trickling down as well," Raskowski said.

If you have to meet with your elderly relative in need, let the person anticipating care lead the meeting or if they already need care then you can be in charge.  Encourage discussion and suggestions, where the money will come from to pay for care, and then write down the finalized plan and commit to supporting it.