Expert Q & A

Assessing Behavioral Changes in a Senior

Jan 31, 2014 11:31AM
Question: My 80 year old mother has become distant and quieter with age. I worry about her and would like to know how I can contribute to her aging successfully.

Successful Aging Expert,  Melissa Kahn
Key to enhancing care is to look with a third eye and listen with a third ear.  If you notice changes in behavior it’s important to ask yourself – 1) what’s going on here and 2) What is she telling me?

Has something happened to cause her to become distant?  Have there been health/medical changes (i.e. UTI, memory changes, pain), medication changes (over use or under use) failure to thrive or the loss of a loved one?  Keep in mind, the passing of time becomes a reminder of those who are absent and/or no longer with us and that can cause some to become depressed.

Before you jump to conclusions, try to assess what might be going on and consider meeting with a good geriatrician to rule out medical conditions.

Keeping the lines of communication open are important, encourage your mother to talk about how she feels.  Schedule regular visits when possible to make sure she stays engaged.  If distance is an issue, consider Skype or other means of online live chats so you can observe as well as talk.  Invite her to participate in activities (even if passive) so she remains involved and not isolated.  Most communities have senior centers, adult activity centers and programs geared toward a mature audience so consider programs that focus on aging well.

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Melissa Kahn, Principal/Owner of KahnHealthCare Consulting, LLC., develops programs and services for organizations in Aging, Alzheimer's and Healthcare Workforce Development. KHC also works with older adults and family caregivers to develop preventive care plans for aging well and is the published author of, The Personal Health Care Passport TM. Melissa also sits on the advisory board for Northwestern University Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center.  For more information, go to
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