Warning Signs Your Elderly Parents May Need Help

signs your elderly parent may need help: Center for Family Medicine

When caring for elderly parents, there comes a time when you will find yourself wondering if they need daily assistance in order to stay safe and healthy. It’s important to remain observant so that you will recognize the signs that help is needed when they begin to appear. Changes in self-care, caring for his or her home, and behavior changes are all signs that your parent(s) would benefit from assistance.

Self-Care Concerns

If your parent is having issues with self-care, you may see signs in his or her appearance. You’ll notice a generally disheveled appearance, or you may smell bothersome odors due to lack of bathing or issues with bathroom habits. Here are some important questions to ask about self-care:

Are there signs that your parent is experiencing episodes of incontinence?
Does your parent appear to not be practicing basic hygiene?
Does your parent wear the same clothes repeatedly without washing them between wearings?
Is your parent not getting any exercise?
Does he or she seem to be moving around as little as possible?

Health Concerns

It is vital to be extra vigilant about observing for indicators that your parent’s health is needlessly suffering. Many health issues that seniors experience are highly treatable, and should be addressed properly. Here are important things to consider:

Are your parent’s prescriptions going unfilled?
Are his or her medications out of date?
Does your parent stumble, fall, or appear to have poor balance?
Does your parent have any unusual scrapes or bruises?
Does your parent’s hearing ability or eyesight seem diminished?

Cognitive and Emotional Concerns

It’s just as important to watch for changes in mood or behavior. These can indicate mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, or even early dementia. Uncertainty, confusion or extreme mood swings are also of concern. Look for these signs:

Does your parent have trouble “finding words” or repeat him- or herself?
Does your parent cry for no apparent reason?
Does your parent exhibit noticeable personality changes or seem to be irrational?
Does parent seem unusually forgetful (like forgetting a close relative’s name)?
Does he or she have a poor sense of what day or time it is?
Has your parent lost interest in things he or she once enjoyed?
Have you noticed inconsistent or unusual sleeping habits in your parent?
Does your parent avoid friends or family members?
Does he or she not answer the phone?
Is your parent easily upset, angered, or confused?

Home-Care and Financial Concerns

Caring for the home and attending to finances can also be problematic as parents age. You’ll want to pay special attention to the bathroom and kitchen. For instance, seeing spoiled food in the fridge or on the counter could indicate that your parent is taking needless risks with his or her health by eating something that could make them sick. Here are some important questions to ask about home care and financial matters:

Are your parent’s houseplants not being tended to?
Is the yard overgrown?
Is your parent’s home especially untidy?
Is trash lying around his or her home?
Has your parent repeatedly bounced checks?
Is unopened mail lying around your parent’s home?
Do you see late notices for bills among the mail?

What to Do Next

If you answered yes to any of these questions, the first step to talk openly and honestly with your parent about what you’ve seen and to say that you are concerned. It’s important to reassure your parent(s) that you want them to stay as independent as possible, but that you also want them to have a good quality of life. Explain that you are going to work with your parent and his or her doctors to come up with a plan to improve the situation.

Then, it’s time to start reaching out. First, contact your local Agency on Aging to find out what services are available. If you suspect dementia or other serious threats to your parent’s well-being, schedule a doctor’s appointment right away. You may also find working with a social worker who specializes in elderly adults helpful to be beneficial to both to you and your parent.