Adults visiting parents, grandparents or other relatives over the holidays often become concerned because their family members aren't taking care of themselves as well as they once did. This year, a government service is offering information and assistance.

Calls to the Eldercare Locator, a nationwide information and referral service for seniors, increase by at least 25 percent in January after adults have spent time with their elderly family members, says director Sandy Markwood.

The service's database mainly contains information on services to help seniors stay in their own homes as long as possible. Markwood says that placing a family member in a nursing home should be a last resort.

Eldercare Locator, which is operated by the Department and Health and Human Services's Administration on Aging, has also prepared an information sheet, "Ten Warning Signs Your Older Family Member May Need Help." The signs include behaviors such as a change in eating habits, neglect of personal hygiene or a lack of participation in activities like religious services or gatherings with friends.

The guide is meant to alert adults to problems so they can help family members before problems becomes crises, Markwood says.

For information and referrals anywhere in the country, or to obtain a copy of the "Ten Warning Signs," call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 or see the Web site www.eldercare.gov.

-- Diane Knich