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Check out <a href="http://www.care.com">care.com</a> for more online resources that connect families with trusted care providers.
Check out care.com for more online resources that connect families with trusted care providers. / Jed Share/Getty Images
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Those caring for aging parents must balance concerns for their welfare with respect for their independence. In addition, we may live far from loved ones and view changes through a magnifying lens.

How do you know if what youíre seeing is a true decline vs. a natural state of old age? Look for warning signs, says Jody Gastfriend of Care.com, an online resource that connects families with trusted care providers.

Among the signs:

Physical changes. Are there gait changes, weight loss or gain, a decline in personal hygiene?

Household changes. Is there no food, old food or expired food in the fridge? Are there signs of fender- benders on the car?

Mood changes. Are there signs of anxiety or depression? Depression is not a normal part of aging Ė and it can be treated.

Unusual forgetfulness. Losing glasses is expected, but a repeated pattern of forgetting pertinent events may be cause for concern.

Misuse of prescribed medications. Are there expired prescriptions? Can your parent remember what medication he or she is taking and when to take it?

Mishandling finances. Are there unpaid bills, problems keeping track of expenses, signs of carelessness with money?

The changes may be signs of dementia, a chronic illness or increased frailty, so voice concerns in a compassionate, clear manner. Take steps to plan for care that will give your parents independence and well-being yet maintain their safety.

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