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18 Signs Your Aging Parent Needs Help

Kim Acosta
By Kim AcostaMarch 22, 2020
Elderly female in wheelchair holding hands with caregiver.

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.

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  1. Bounced checks, calls from collections, and late payment notices
    Are bills being paid late or not at all? Are there messages from collection companies?
  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 breaking and/or not being tended to, such as light bulbs or smoke alarms?
  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 even unrecognizable?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. Wearing disheveled or tattered clothing
    Is there a distinguishable difference in your parents’ appearance? Are their clothes worn or dirty?
  8. Keeping expired groceries
    Is food collecting dust on the counter or making the fridge and house smell?
  9. Forgetfulness
    Are they losing or misplacing keys, wallets, or other important items?
  10. Forgetting to take medications
    Are there full bottles of prescription pills in medicine cabinets?
  11. Leaving the house or yard maintenance unattended
    Are weeds growing uncontrolled? 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
    Have you noticed they’re eating less, or consuming only fast food or prepackaged snacks?
  15. Poor personal hygiene
    Do you notice 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
    Have you seen bruises, scratches, or cuts appearing more often without any reason or an explanation?
  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, 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.


Kim Acosta
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.

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