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Good time to check on your loved ones

If you have older relatives, the holiday season is a good time to check on their welfare, a Minnesota coalition suggests.

Conversations should start before action is urgently needed, said Gayle Kvenvold, president and CEO of LeadingAge Minnesota, an association of organizations serving Minnesota senior citizens.

"A simple conversation can go a long way to prevent crisis decisions and give peace of mind to all involved," she said.

The organization's Face Aging MN campaign offers the following signs that may indicate a caring conversation is needed:

• Trouble with balance when walking, getting up from a chair or using stairs

• Weight loss or gain

• Decrease in attention to personal hygiene

• Sad mood or expressions of hopelessness

• Recent injuries, such as cuts, bruises or burns

• Forgetfulness and losing things

• Neglect of housekeeping

• Piles of unopened mail, newspapers or bills

• Late notices for utilities or other bills

• Old and expired food

• Overuse or underuse of medications

If you need help deciding what to do, you can call the Senior LinkAge Line, at (800) 333-2433. It's a statewide service of the Minnesota Board of Aging.

Meth, opioid use rising during pregnancy

The rate of pregnancies affected by amphetamine and opioid use rose dramatically over just a few years, according to a new study.

Lead author Dr. Lindsay Admon of the University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital and other researchers found found that the rate of amphetamine-affected births (mostly attributed to methamphetamine) rose from 1.2 per 1,000 hospitalizations in 2008-09 to 2.4 per 1,000 in 2014-15.

The rate of opioid-affected births rose from 1.5 per 1,000 to 6.5 per 1,000.

Geographically, the highest rate of amphetamine-affected births was roughly 1 percent in the rural West. Regarding opioid use, it was nearly 3 percent in the rural Northeast.

University of Minnesota researchers participated in the study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study sample consisted of about 47 million deliveries in U.S. hospitals over 12 years, according to a Michigan Medicine news release.

Flu scoreboard

The influenza season continues to be off to a slow start in Minnesota this time around. The Minnesota Department of Health reported sporadic spread of flu across the state for the week that ended Nov. 24. Six hospitalizations were reported that week, bringing the total to 45. No hospitalizations have been reported in Northeastern Minnesota so far this season.