Give your loved one a big hug. Clues aren’t always visible from a distance; especially when you don’t see the person every day, you might learn more through touch.

Look for:

  • Noticeable weight loss. Does the person feel thinner? Are clothes loose, or has he added notches to his belt?
  • Seeming more frail. Do you feel anything “different” about the person’s strength and stature when you hug? Can your loved one rise easily from a chair? Does she or he seem unsteady or unable to balance? Compare these observations to the last time you were together.
  • Noticeable weight gain. Common causes include an injury slowing the person down, such as dementia.
  • Strange body odor. Unfortunately, a close hug can also reveal changes in personal hygiene habits. Causes range from memory trouble to depression to other physical ailments.
  • Changes in appearance. Does the person’s hair and makeup look all right? Are clothes clean? Someone known for crisply ironed shirts who’s now in a stained sweatshirt may lack the dexterity for buttons or may have lost the strength for managing an ironing board and iron. A formerly clean-shaven man with an unkempt beard may be forgetting to shave (or forgetting how to shave).