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Health experts say holidays are an important time to check in on older family members

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As families gather for the holidays, it is a good time to gauge the health of older family members.

This is one of the busiest times of the year for the Department of Geriatrics at Upstate Medical University, according to department chair Dr. Sharon Brangman. That is because adult children often come home and spend more time with their parents.

"A lot of times when you are talking to people over the phone, they can put a good face on things," Brangman said. "And it’s not until you see them in person that you start to realize that something may not be quite right."

Brangman said there are a number of things that can tip off a family member that an aging adult may be struggling.

"Maybe the house is not as organized as you would think," Brangman said. "Maybe the mail is piling up or things aren’t tidy – if this is a change from normal behaviors. Maybe they notice parents are moving slower, physically and mentally. Maybe clothing and hygiene is not ideal, and they don’t quite look up to their previous standards."

Brangman said if there are any concerns, it is best to get an evaluation from geriatric experts. Their focus is keeping individuals independent and healthy in their own homes. Brangman said an early evaluation can lead to the kinds of services that can help reach that goal.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.