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Family visits around the holidays are opportunities for adult children to evaluate how their senior relatives are functioning living on their own, according to Jennifer Prell president of the free senior housing referral network, Elderwerks (www.elderwerks.com).

“In some cases, many months, even an entire year may have gone by since the last visit. So changes to the older adults' physical and mental status may be more obvious to visitors than to those who see them on a regular basis,” she said.

Specifically, Prell explained, the following situations may be cause for concern:

* Does the senior have a health condition that requires frequent monitoring? Are they showing signs of short-term memory loss or confusion?

* Is there a change in the older adult's appearance or personal hygiene? Has their home started to look cluttered or dirty? Is it difficult for them to prepare their own meals or do their own grocery shopping?

* Are their credit cards being misused? Are bills being paid late, or not at all? Is unopened mail piling up?

* Has the individual's driving ability deteriorated? Are they making unnecessary or increased calls to 911? Do they express concern about being home alone?

“Don't wait until a crisis occurs with a loved one to look for senior housing alternatives,” urged Prell. “There are more options, and it's easier to make the transition if you can take your time and plan ahead.”

February is typically the busiest month for Elderwerks. Jennifer has served clients throughout Illinois and nationwide since 2003. “Families gather for holidays at year-end, and notice that Mom or Dad, Grandma or Grandpa, or someone they are close to aren't doing as well as they had the previous year. By February, they're working with us to transition to some sort of senior housing or to get home care,” she said.

Several family members may be involved in the important decision of selecting the right senior housing property or caregiver. For this reason, Elderwerks provides clients with a free conference call service and trained coordinator to handle interviews and other communication among several parties, who frequently are located in different regions of the country.

It is estimated that more than 60 percent of individuals age 80 or older need some level of assistance. “It's not so much a matter of if they'll need help, it's a matter of when,” said Prell. “While asking for help may not be easy for the older adult, many individuals welcome it, as it can help them stay healthier longer and improve their quality of life.”

In addition to housing assistance (including retirement communities, independent living, assisted living, Alzheimer's care, supportive living, skilled nursing, and in-home care) Elderwerks also helps seniors and their families find experienced SRES Realtors, attorneys, financial advisors and Senior Move Managers. Company experts can also help clients identify and tap into personal and governmental financial resources to get the care they need, once they move.