From spoiled food to living in the same pair of pajamas, certain signs suggest an aging parent needs help now. “Always note anything out of character,” says Melissa Henston, a doctor of geriatric psychology. “I once told my dad, ‘Dad, you can’t eat this stuff. Ham isn’t supposed to be green.’”
No one knows your parents or loved ones like you do — something unusual for them may be an everyday situation at your friend’s parents’ home. Still, it’s helpful to know common warning signs that may signal trouble.
Whether visiting in person or catching up via video chat, here are 18 things to look out for.
- Bounced checks, calls from collections, and late payment notices
Are bills being paid late or not at all? Are there messages from collection companies?
- Broken or damaged appliances and fixtures
Have they stopped cooking or maintaining a regular meal schedule because their kitchen appliances don’t work? Are important items breaking and/or not being tended to, such as light bulbs or smoke alarms?
- Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
Are your parents acting differently toward you, friends or even strangers?
- Cluttered, dirty, or disorganized house
Is the home beginning to look and feel different, or even unrecognizable?
- Confusion and uncertainty when performing familiar tasks
Do your parents seem uncertain how to complete daily chores or tasks such as laundry, vacuuming or washing dishes?
- Feeling depressed or having little to no energy
Is there a noticeable change in your parents’ demeanor? Do they smile or laugh like they used to?
- Wearing disheveled or tattered clothing
Is there a distinguishable difference in your parents’ appearance? Are their clothes worn or dirty?
- Keeping expired groceries
Is food collecting dust on the counter or making the fridge and house smell?
Are they losing or misplacing keys, wallets, or other important items?
- Forgetting to take medications
Are there full bottles of prescription pills in medicine cabinets?
- Leaving the house or yard maintenance unattended
Are weeds growing uncontrolled? Is trash piling up outside?
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies they once enjoyed
When was the last time they did something they loved?
- Missing important appointments
Are they frequently rescheduling missed appointments, or simply not showing up?
- Weight loss or poor dieting habits
Have you noticed they’re eating less, or consuming only fast food or prepackaged snacks?
- Poor personal hygiene
Do you notice bad breath or body odor more often?
- Trouble getting up from a seated position
Are they struggling to sit or stand?
- Frequent injuries or bruising
Have you seen bruises, scratches, or cuts appearing more often without any reason or an explanation?
- Unexplained dents or damage on their car
Are they getting into more accidents? In general, are they not paying attention to their car or safety?
If you notice any of these signs, write down your concerns. Talk with your siblings and other relatives, or perhaps plan an elder care family meeting.
Consider touring a few senior living communities, virtually or in person, to get a feel for whether your parent may benefit from the services, dining plans, and activities. If you’d like to talk through any aspect of senior living or schedule a tour, our Senior Living Advisors can help.