12 Warning Signs Your Elderly Parent Needs Help

12 Signs Your Elderly Parent Needs Help and Effective Ways to Support Them

08 Jan 2024


Watching your parents grow older can be a beautiful experience, but sometimes, you might worry they're showing signs of decline. Some of these warnings are obvious, but others are harder to notice - and all of them suggest the need for extra help. Below, find 12 of the most common signs your elderly parent needs help, along with tips on how you can provide support

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12 signs your older parent needs help

1. Signs of falls

Unexplained bruises, limping, cuts, or scratches are all telltale signs that your parent has been falling more frequently or having more accidents. In-person assistance with daily tasks can help your parent avoid these injuries, which can become more serious as they age.

2. Mobility issues

Some older adults may show clear signs of pain or discomfort as they sit down, get up, or conduct other daily activities. If you observe this regularly with your older parent, they may benefit from extra support in their daily lives.

3. Unexplained weight fluctuations

Appetite loss in older adults is common, and it often leads to weight loss that, to you, might appear inexplicable. Water retention, a sign of serious health conditions, may have your loved one appearing bloated. They may also struggle to get around the kitchen, affecting their ability to cook nutritious meals independently. No matter the issue, a decline in nutrition typically accompanies these weight fluctuations. With robust everyday support, though, older adults can best handle their health.

4. Poor hygiene

If your parents personal hygiene is clearly declining - for example, they aren't showering, doing laundry, or brushing their teeth - they likely need extra support. Assistance with these common activities can make all the difference for some older adults.

5. Unclear or cluttered living space

Beyond how your parent appears, look at their surroundings. Have they been falling behind on cleaning or upkeep? Are they gathering needless detritus instead of throwing things in the trash and recycling? These are all signs that support is needed for basic home care.

6. Unpaid bills or bouncing checks

Forgetfulness has long been associated with growing older, and it can manifest in neglecting to pay bills or keep money in one's checking account. Noticing these changes - or lots of mail about unpaid bills - can suggest a need for additional support in your parent's day-to-day routine.

7. Forgetting to take prescriptions or go to appointments

It can be especially concerning if your parent forgets to take their medications or show up to doctor's appointments. These behaviors are often strong indicators that your parent needs assistance sooner rather than later.

8. Appearing confused

Suppose you take your parent out for an activity and you notice they aren't quite sure what's going on. You might also have found out that your parent has been driving to run errands only to arrive unsure of where they are or why they're there. These signs of confusion are beyond what one might normally think of as forgetfulness. They require deep, close attention and support to resolve.

9. Shifts in mood

If your parent is acting differently or treating other people in unusual ways, they may require more emotional support or engagement on a daily basis. You may also notice a loss of interest in hobbies and activities, potentially indicating the onset of clinical depression. Lifestyle and medical changes may be necessary to combat these mood shifts.

10. Wearing seasonally inappropriate clothes

Some older parents may experience dementia, which can present itself as a loss of touch with reality. A parent wearing clothes that are too warm or cold for the current season can reflect this distance from typical everyday life. With regular help, your older parent can still thrive if they indeed have dementia.

11. Driving challenges

Take a look at your parent's car. Do you see new dents and scratches out of nowhere? Is clutter accumulating in the car? These may be signs that your parent is losing their ability to drive safely or maintain tidy surroundings. Consistent help can make both possible again.

12. Little to no fresh or healthy food at home

Mobility issues, clinical depression, forgetfulness, confusion, and dementia can all make it much tougher for your parent to cook their own food. You might thus start to see a lack of fresh ingredients or healthy foods in your parent's fridge and cupboards. There might even be expired ingredients or leftovers that have gone bad. Support for this challenge is among the few types of help you can offer without anyone being in the room with your parent.

How to help older parents who need support

1. Share your concerns with other family members or loved ones

Just as your older parent might be struggling to go it alone, supporting them isn't something you should do by yourself. The same is true for speaking with your parent about getting extra support in the first place. This makes it prudent to reach out to family members and your parent's other loved ones about the signs that your parent needs help. Together, you all can figure out how to initiate the conversation and provide support thereafter.

2. Talk with your parents - and listen

Your parent may feel that getting help represents a loss of autonomy or independence. They may also feel upset that extra support could impose a burden on you and their other loved ones. They may thus react negatively to your concerns and suggestions. Actively listening to your parents and expressing compassion and empathy can help them reach a calmer, more level-headed state. From there, finding a support solution that works for your parent may be easier.

If your parent continues to resist the notion that they need help, show that you'll fully involve them in all decisions being made. Keep your tone of voice reassuring and loving rather than angry or combative. Most importantly, ask your parents questions: How have they been feeling? What challenges have they been facing lately? What do they wish they could do better? Propose solutions to these problems, and your parent may become more open to the idea of hands-on care.

3. Schedule a doctor's visit

Although you can't quite make your parent go to a doctor's office, accompanying them on a visit that you schedule with their permission may help. you'll show that you're with your parent every step of the way and get them expert support. Plus, doctors can often recommend help options you might not have previously known existed.

4. Consider professional care options

If you've noticed signs your older parent needs help and taken all the above steps to provide it, you're doing a great job. However, you might be struggling to make time for your own needs as you play a larger role in your parent's day-to-day life. If that's the case, professional care options may be necessary to discuss.

The notion of professional care may conjure the idea of nursing homes, to which many older adults may react highly negatively. That's understandable - nursing homes are only for people whose cognitive or physical conditions require 24/7 support and attention from trained professionals. Chances are that your parent is a better fit for much less intense support options, such as the below.

  • Home care services. In this form of older-adult care, a professional aide regularly visits your parent to provide help. During their visits, they may help with housekeeping, meal preparation, errands, and hygiene. You can also arrange occasional visits if you live with, and provide care for, your parent - this way, you get time back for yourself. In any case, your parent's familiarity with their home environment can make them much more receptive to getting support.

  • Independent living communities. These are basically amenity-filled apartment complexes for older adults. Your parent might get to enjoy meal services, planned activities, and transportation while living in these spaces. Beyond that, though, your parent will be pretty much self-sufficient. As such, independent living communities are best for parents struggling with loneliness, clinical depression, or poor eating habits.

  • Assisted living communities.In these communities, your parent gets hands-on assistance maintaining their hygiene, taking medication, and getting around. This all comes with the full services and social aspects of independent living communities. It's like taking everything great about independent living communities and adding more direct personal support.

5. Make changes around the house

If your parent continues to put up barriers to getting ongoing help, see if they'll let you spend some time at their home making changes. For example, if your parent is struggling to sit up or get down, buying them furniture that comes up higher from the floor may help.

Of course, some signs your older parent needs help can't be solved with changes to their home. They can, though, be solved with delivery right to your parent's doorstep.

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