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10 Signs Your Elderly Parent Needs Help

Reference these 10 signs your elderly parents may need help. Plus, what to do once you've established they need help.

More than half of adult children in America have helped their parents with housework, errands and home repairs. According to the Pew Research Center, about 52% of those with parents age 65 to 74, and 64% with parents 75 and older lend a hand because their parents need help. But what are the signs parents need more assistance – the kind best given through assisted living or a retirement community?

Here are ten signs your aging parents may need help:

  1. Their home’s exterior is unkept. An overgrown lawn, excess weeds in the flower beds and neglected outdoor furniture are all signs for concern. Clutter on the property and overlooked repairs to the siding, porch or patio are also an indication of potentially needing assistance..
  2. Their home’s interior is becoming dirty and disorganized. Dishes left in the sink, piles of magazines and neglected laundry may indicate daily chores have become overwhelming for your parent.
  3. Bills are going unpaid. A stack of unopened or unpaid bills often signals that an elderly parent finds financial management too daunting. Learn about managing your parents’ finances so they can stay on top of their economic responsibilities.
  4. Their hygiene is suffering. Noticeable changes in your parent’s personal appearance or basic hygiene might indicate that they need help. This is especially the case if they once took pride in their appearance but now wear dirty clothes or neglect bathing and grooming.
  5. There’s no fresh, healthy food in the house. If you find a lot of expired items, processed foods or very few groceries in your parent’s pantry and fridge, it likely suggests shopping or cooking has become too arduous. Read our Healthy Eating Guide for Older Adults so you can help guide them to a nutritious diet.
  6. There’s been a change in their general mood. Your parent could be dealing with depression or other mental health issues if they’ve lost interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed—or if they exhibit increased irritability or sadness.
  7. They’ve been mismanaging their medications. Missing doses, taking the wrong amount, or failing to refill prescriptions on time can lead to severe health problems. A simple reminder system, such as an app—or helping them with their medication routine is vitally important.
  8. You’ve noticed unexplained bruising. This may suggest your loved one has been experiencing accidents or falling at home, particularly if the bruises appear in unusual places.
  9. They’ve become more forgetful. Cognitive decline can manifest as forgetting familiar places or names, missing doctor appointments, or repeatedly asking the same questions.
  10. They’ve noticeably gained or lost weight. Your parent may have difficulty cooking or lack an appetite if they are losing weight unintentionally, and they might be eating unhealthy foods or remaining too inactive if they’re gaining weight. Any of these scenarios are a cause for concern and can signal health issues.

They Need Help – Now What?

If you’ve noticed one or more of these 10 signs your elderly parent needs help, talk with your parents about senior living choices, what you’re seeing and how it’s impacting their well-being. It’s not always an easy conversation to have. But experts recommend you talk with your parents before there’s a crisis. Before your conversation, list all your concerns for your elderly parent, especially any issues that surpass the typical signs of old age. Pay special attention to the signs of decline in elderly individuals, and learn how to help aging parents by researching senior care options.

Have the conversation in person if possible, and try to set a time and place where you and your parent can talk without distractions. Remember that every senior needs empathy from their kids, not sympathy alone. Also, it can be difficult to help your parent with these concerns when you’re in a hurry to make big changes. Give your loved one plenty of time to speak their mind, and reassure them that they don’t have to make any decisions immediately. You can download these tips to help you get the conversation started when talking to parents about senior living.

Look to outside services

Paying for yard work, home repairs or housekeeping can relieve some of the physical burdens and hassles of homeownership. If a parent needs help with activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing, grooming, etc., it’s possible to hire in-home aides, although this can get pricey over time. Community aging services, houses of worship and neighborhood groups also have services to assist with food, transportation, companionship, etc.

Involve the rest of the family.

Many adult children provide a host of caregiving services for their parents. Perhaps you have siblings who can help, too. If you go this route, it’s important to have conversations with the family so expectations can be set for everyone.

Consider senior living options

Assisted living communities and Life Plan Communities (also known as continuing care retirement communities) offer maintenance-free living, nutritious dining options, interesting activities and programs, companionship and security. They also offer the level of daily assistance that’s needed, along with other health services. While they can be a good financial value overall, costs vary depending on the type and location of each community.

If you’re seeing these signs your parents need assistance, take heart. You have a number of options for getting them the help they need so their health and happiness aren’t compromised. Work with your parents to find the solution that’s best suited to your family.

Where You Live Matters

Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.

Originally Published: July 19, 2017 – Updated On: July 18, 2024