“I have noticed very minor changes in my dad’s overall condition. I am concerned that his symptoms might progress further – but, how can I know when there has been marked changes that warrant further attention?” Phillip from Milton, GA

Thank you so much for your question! And, I appreciate that you are reaching out early as you are noticing the changes while they continue to be minor.

This is a wonderful time to establish what is deemed a “baseline” for your father’s condition. To be simply defined, a medical baseline is a set of clinical information found at the beginning of a period of observation. This information gathered has to be a measurable characteristic that can be later used to make comparisons. This can include various cognitive or emotional (such as depression) screenings, any of a series of blood tests or lab work, or procedures like colonoscopies. Everyone presents with their own “normal” – and this must be established before there can be a comparison made of either marked decline or improvement. A baseline allows you to see a measurable response to various changes in one’s lifestyle, environment, exposures, or interventions – and to make very objective decisions about “next steps” to improve overall quality of life or symptom management.

Geriatric Care Managers can provide general consultative guidance on how best to establish a multi-system baseline for your loved one. They can provide advice on how to make proactive steps to ready your family in the event that things are progressing and symptoms have a greater effect on their life. They can also assist with overcoming levels of denial by having a clinical professional with whom the family unit can begin to identify and emotionally process the red flags or warning signs of potential issues. With medical needs, hindsight is often not 20/20 – as it is said – and attempting to trust one’s own recollection when in crisis leaves many gaps in information when there is limited ability to see the true development of marked changes over time.

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