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Check On Older Relatives Over The Holidays

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service-WI

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two women hugging
Dean Mitchell

(12/18/13) MADISON, Wis. - With family visits for the holidays just around the corner, an AARP official says it's wise to take a moment to assess how elderly relatives are managing the activities of daily living.

Sam Wilson, president of AARP-Wisconsin, said it's never good to put elderly relatives on the defensive with pointed questions. He said it's best just to observe.

"I like to think of it as sort of the three M's: your mobility, your medicine and your money," Wilson said. "Those are sort of the three areas that I certainly recommend people focus on, because that's where there can be a lot of change in a very short period of time."

Our parents taught us that it's rude to talk to people about money, and even though it's a touchy area, Wilson said, he counsels observation rather than interrogation. Look around before you ask direct questions, he said.

"Stacks of mail, unpaid bills laying on the counter, checkbooks laying out," he said. "Any time those financial items are laying about, you need to start asking some more probing questions."

The ability to handle finances is a very important part of the feeling of independence that's important to aging relatives, so Wilson advised treading lightly, and never just asking a blunt question such as, "How much money do you have?"

Driving is another part of independence, and Wilson said it's another area where it's best to observe if possible, rather than asking questions.

"If there's a way for you to get in the vehicle with mom or dad and make sure that you have the ability to assess whether or not they are able to travel at speed, if they are able to navigate stop lights and stop signs - that is going to give you more information than any questions you could possibly ask," he said.

If a ride-along isn't possible, Wilson suggested looking for dings and dents in their car, or damage to the garage entrance.

Those who discover that a family member can use some help can find local resources at

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