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10 Signs Your Elderly Parent Needs Help

4 minute readLast updated October 12, 2023
Written by Nirali Desai, memory care writer
Reviewed by Carol Bradley Bursack, NCCDP-certified dementia support group facilitatorAuthor Carol Bradley Bursack spent two decades as a primary caregiver to seven elders and is also a newspaper columnist, blogger, and expert on aging.
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As your parents start to age, you may start to notice some elderly signs of decline. Aging often comes with changes that cause difficulties in a senior’s overall lifestyle and health. Some factors that may affect their lifestyle causing them to require assistance include a recent medical diagnosis, a recent surgery or injury, managing multiple chronic health conditions, or general difficulties with daily living activities as they age.

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10 common warning signs your aging parent needs help

No one knows your parents or loved ones like you do — something unusual for them may be an everyday situation in another home. However, it’s still helpful to learn common warning signs that may signal trouble and the need for assistance.

Whether you’re visiting your parent in person or catching up via video chat, here’s how to know when your elderly parents need help:

  1. Poor hygiene. You might notice your aging parent may not be showering, brushing their teeth, or doing laundry. They may also have given up on appearances by wearing dirty or torn clothing, not brushing their hair, etc.
  2. A messy or disorganized house. You may find piled up dishes in the sink, clothes scattered around the house, a dirty bathroom, bags of trash not being taken out, or an unruly yard.
  3. Poorly maintained house. You may find smoke detectors without batteries, expired fire extinguishers, broken appliances, tangled wires, and other issues that may pose danger.
  4. Mismanaged finances. Your mom or dad may forget to pay bills on time, receive late payment notices, or have bounced checks.
  5. Poorly maintained car. You may see new dents or scratches on their car from accidents. They may also forget to take their car to the shop for regular maintenance or issues that come up.
  6. Unhealthy eating habits. You may notice they don’t keep fresh groceries around, eat food that’s expired, or cook less. They may also be experiencing a change in appetite, causing an unhealthy amount of weight loss or gain.
  7. Mood changes or swings. You may see that your mom or dad acts differently towards you or others. You may also see some signs of depressionloneliness, or a lack of interest in hobbies and activities they used to enjoy.
  8. Forgetfulness or confusion. They may forget to take their medications, refill their prescriptions on time, or go to doctors’ appointments. They may also find themselves confused when doing routine tasks like grocery shopping, laundry, driving, or using a cell phone.
  9. Trouble getting up. Your aging parent may struggle when they sit or get up.
  10. Unexplained bruises or injuries. You may see bruises, scratches, cuts, or signs of limping due to accidents or falls around the house.

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All of these are common signs of an elderly person declining. If you start to notice any of these elderly decline signs in your aging parent, it may be helpful to write down some concerns. You can then talk to your siblings or other relatives to figure out how to tell your elderly parent they need help.

It’s crucial to be thoughtful and careful when approaching this conversation with a parent, because aging signs are sometimes hard to accept due to feelings of loss or incompetence. To make the topic easier, you should look into conversational tips on how to tell an elderly parent they need help. Additionally, you should make sure they’re included in any discussion of future care options.

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Care options to help your elderly parent

The aging process looks different for everyone, but taking proactive steps in your loved one’s care can have a positive impact on their overall health and wellness.

If your mom or dad only requires help with household chores, senior nutrition, and routine errands, you may be able to step in and help them out. If they’re seeking additional companionship in addition to assistance with daily chores, then they may benefit from independent living or home care.

However, if your loved one’s in need of more hands-on assistance throughout the day, assisted living or a care home may be a better fit.

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. It’s also important to not let guilt get in the way of getting your senior loved one the long-term care they need.

For instance, A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors are available to help you navigate care options for your aging loved one. They can help you compare the care options listed above and identify potential senior living communities that meet your loved one’s budget, preferences, and care needs.

Table of Contents

10 common warning signs your aging parent needs help

Care options to help your elderly parent


Meet the Author
Nirali Desai, memory care writer

Nirali Desai is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom specializing in memory care and life enrichment topics. Previously, she worked in marketing and social media, edited a regional senior magazine, and wrote for the American Red Cross. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.

Reviewed by

Carol Bradley Bursack, NCCDP-certified dementia support group facilitator

The information contained on this page 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 endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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