As published in the Arizona Republic, June 8, 2022

This is one of THE most commonly asked questions we receive.  Here are some steps to get you started. Identify the changes you’re seeing:  Are there changes in:  memory, routine or habits, personality, hearing, overall health – like energy, alertness, pain or weight loss; skills, reasoning, socialization, or confidence?

Note the instances of difference you observe.  These observations and this timeline will be different if you live together or just visit.  Are the visits consistent or infrequent?  Keep a list, date your observations, make notes of anything significant that could be affecting behavior, e.g. illness, rough circumstances, time of day, etc.

Before moving forward, remember you want to help and not accuse.  You are looking for candor, not defensiveness. Choose your words and approach wisely.  Start with some gentle questions in a relaxed atmosphere ideally when you’re doing something together, to help assess their needs.  “I notice you’re not sewing/walking/cooking so much these days.  Is it my imagination or is there any special reason?” “You look like you’ve lost some weight – are you feeling OK?”  “You seem more tired these days, everything alright?”   Listen and read between the lines.  Share something similar about yourself you may be worried about, making yourself vulnerable to open the conversation further.

Even minor changes if consistent should warrant a visit to the doctor, together.  “You are worth it, Mom!  Let’s just confirm all is well.” A full work-up will be the best place to start, a physical, bloodwork, scans of anything pain-related.  Share a list of concerns with the medical assistant (MA) before you go.  Keep it tight with objective observations and the specific concerns.  .

Don’t be afraid to talk about the stuff no one wants to talk about.  Tackle it gracefully in a safe environment with no judgment, just concern. Once we know what the problem is, the resources to tackle the next steps will become more apparent.  Always know, we are here to help direct you further. Reach out for class information and our resource program.   

Elaine Poker-Yount, CDP, Aging & Dementia Care Specialist

Reach her at 480-203-8548 or