Admitting the need for assistance—and accepting it—is not easy for people as they age. So, how will you know when your aging parent needs help at home? One thing is certain: Mom and Dad aren’t likely to be the ones who tell you!
Seniors have a strong desire to remain independent and retain control of their own lives for as long as possible. Typically, an older adult will downplay or hide any issues they have been experiencing until an accident or sudden decline in their health makes it plain that they need assistance. Since adult children are often unable to participate in making care decisions before a crisis takes place, the added stress of an unexpected hospitalization or fall complicates things even further.
One way to avoid being caught off-guard is to start regularly monitoring your parents’ physical and mental abilities (ideally in person), encouraging proper legal and financial planning, and researching long-term care options. This will ensure you are prepared should Mom or Dad begin to show signs of needing help.
Signs a Senior Needs Help at Home
Look for these common indicators that an older adult may need help at home or an increased level of care.
Difficulty Performing Activities of Daily Living
Bathing and grooming
Walking and transferring (e.g., moving from the bed to a chair)
Read: The Importance of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
Changes in Physical Function and Appearance
Noticeable weight loss due to poor diet, difficulty cooking, eating, shopping for food, etc.
Wearing soiled clothing or dressing inappropriately for the season/weather due to difficulties dressing
Poor personal hygiene and unpleasant body odor as a result of infrequent showering or bathing
Unkempt hair, untrimmed nails or poor oral hygiene indicating a noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care
Bruises, wounds or other marks on the body that could indicate falls or changes in mobility
Noticeable burns on the skin could indicate a senior is experiencing problems cooking
Changes in Behavior and Mental Status
Lack of drive or motivation
Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
Difficulty keeping track of time
Failure to return phone calls to friends and family members
Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
Verbally or physically abusive behaviors
Changes in sleep patterns (e.g., insomnia or sleeping all day)
Neglecting Household Responsibilities
Inability to independently complete instrumental ADLs
Changes in household cleanliness and organization
Extreme clutter or evidence of hoarding
Stacks of unopened mail, late payment notices https://www.sondercare.com/blog/ or bounced checks
Unpaid bills, calls from collectors or utilities being turned off
Spoiled food that doesn’t get thrown away
Little or no fresh, healthy food or overall low food supply
Stained or wet furniture or carpet
Urine odor in the house, which may indicate incontinence
Cookware or appliances with noticeable burn marks could indicate food has been left unattended while cooking or reheating
Failure to maintain outdoor areas, such as landscaping, snow removal or garbage collection
Signs of unsafe driving (e.g., automobile dents and scratches)