A Place for Mom
Assisted Living
Memory Care
Independent Living
Senior Living

Make the best senior care decision

Elderly female in wheelchair holding hands with caregiver.

18 Signs Your Aging Parent Needs Help

Written by Kim Acosta
 about the author
4 minute readLast updated October 12, 2021

From spoiled food to living in the same pair of pajamas, certain signs can suggest an aging parent needs help now.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Take our free care quiz

In this Article

“Always note anything out of character,” says geriatric psychologist Melissa Henston. “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 another person’s parents’ home. Still, it’s helpful to know common warning signs that may signal trouble.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

We can help you start the senior living conversation
Talking to your loved one about senior living can feel intimidating, but our 5-step guide makes it easier by helping you start an empathetic dialogue, ask important questions, and identify next steps.
Download the conversation guide >

Whether you’re visiting in person or catching up via video chat, look out for these 18 signs:

  1. Bounced checks, calls from collections, and late payment notices
    Are they paying bills late or not paying them at all? Are collection companies calling?
  2. 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, such as light bulbs or smoke alarms, breaking or not being tended to?
  3. Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
    Are your parents acting differently toward you, friends, or even strangers?
  4. Cluttered, dirty, or disorganized house
    Is the home beginning to look and feel different or unrecognizable?
  5. Confusion and uncertainty when performing familiar tasks
    Do your parents seem unsure about how to complete daily chores or tasks such as laundry, vacuuming, or washing dishes?
  6. Feeling depressed or having little to no energy
    Has your parent’s demeanor noticeably changed? Do they smile or laugh like they used to?
  7. Wearing disheveled or tattered clothing
    Do your parents regularly neglect their appearance? Are their clothes worn or dirty?
  8. Keeping expired groceries
    Is food collecting mold on the counter or making the fridge and house smell?
  9. Forgetfulness
    Are they losing or misplacing keys, wallets, or other important items?
  10. Improper medication management
    Are there full bottles of prescription pills in medicine cabinets?
  11. Leaving house or yard maintenance unattended
    Are weeds growing uncontrollably? Is trash piling up outside?
  12. Loss of interest in activities or hobbies they once enjoyed
    When was the last time they did something they loved?
  13. Missing important appointments
    Are they frequently rescheduling missed appointments or simply not showing up?
  14. Weight loss or poor dieting habits
    Are they eating much less or consuming only fast food or prepackaged snacks?
  15. Poor personal hygiene
    Do they have bad breath or body odor more often?
  16. Trouble getting up from a seated position
    Are they struggling to sit or stand?
  17. Frequent injuries or bruising
    Do they have unexplained and more frequent bruises, scratches, or cuts?
  18. 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, it may be helpful to write down your concerns. Talking with your siblings and other relatives, or perhaps planning an elder care family meeting, can be extremely helpful.

Talk with a Senior Living Advisor

Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.

What happens next?

Once you’ve identified your loved one’s needs and you’re ready to take the next step, our Senior Living Advisors can help you navigate the process. This could mean comparing care types and senior living communities, learning how to pay for care, planning a smooth transition, or scheduling virtual or in-person tours of senior living communities.

The aging process looks different for everyone, but taking proactive steps by getting your loved one the care they need can have a positive impact on their overall health and wellness. Perhaps they only require help with household chores and routine errands. Or, maybe they could benefit from the additional companionship that comes with independent living or home care. For those in need of more hands-on assistance throughout the day, assisted living or a care home setting may be a better fit. Remember: Getting a feel for dining plans and activities schedules is just as crucial as selecting a community that offers the necessary care services, so don’t hesitate to ask questions during a tour.

Sometimes recognizing the initial signs is the biggest hurdle, but once you’ve realized a parent needs help, there are resources available to make the next steps as smooth as possible.

Meet the Author
Kim Acosta

Kim Acosta is managing editor at A Place for Mom. She’s produced digital and print content for more than 20 years as an editorial leader at Shape magazine, P&G, Hallmark, and others. Her work has appeared in national media outlets including Family Circle, Parents, Lifescript, BuzzFeed, Living Fit, Natural Health, WorkingMother.com, and HomeCare.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader.  Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site.  Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.