17 Signs Your Aging Parent Needs Help

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak unfolds, it’s more important than ever to keep a watchful eye on your aging parent. While healthcare officials encourage social distancing and self-isolation, consider dropping off supplies, phone calls or video chat. Whether food is spoiling, mail is piling up, or something simply seems out of the ordinary, certain signs suggest an aging parent needs help now.

How to spot and track troublesome signs early on

“You can usually spot problems as soon as you drive up or enter your parents’ home,” says Melissa Henston, doctor of geriatric psychology expert. “There are a bunch of warning signs that are easy to spot. For example, the exterior of the house has peeling paint. Once you enter the home, mail is piled up and newspapers are still in plastic wrap. Maybe the house isn’t as clean as normal or has an odor. You can usually tell when something is off.”

“Always note anything out of character,” Henston adds. I once told my mom, "Mom, you can’t eat this stuff. Ham isn’t supposed to be green.”

For others, the signs may be different or more difficult to recognize. That’s why documenting anything out of the ordinary is useful and important.

Signs your aging parent may need help

No one knows your parents or loved ones like you do — something unusual for them may be an everyday situation at your friend’s parents’ home. Still, it’s helpful to know the common warning signs that may signal trouble, especially now, since coronavirus may keep your loved ones more isolated.

Can you relate to any of the following?

  1. Bounced checks, calls from collections and late payment notices. Are bills being paid late or not at all? Are their messages from collection companies?

  2. Broken or damaged appliances and fixtures. Have they stopped cooking or maintaining a regular meal schedule because their kitchen appliances don’t work? Are important items breaking and/or not being tended to, such as light bulbs or smoke alarms?

  3. Changes in mood or extreme mood swings. Are your parents acting differently toward you, friends or even strangers?

  4. Cluttered, dirty or disorganized house. Is the home beginning to look and feel different, or even unrecognizable?

  5. Confusion and uncertainty when performing familiar tasks. Do your parents seem uncertain how to complete daily chores or tasks such as laundry, vacuuming or washing dishes?

  6. Feeling depressed or having little to no energy. Is there a noticeable change in your parents’ demeanor? Do they smile or laugh like they used to?

  7. Wearing disheveled or tattered clothing. Is there a distinguishable difference in your parents’ appearance? Are their clothes worn or dirty?

  8. Keeping expired groceries and not throwing them away. Is food collecting dust on the counter or making the fridge and house smell?

  9. Forgetting to take medications. Are there full bottles of prescription pills in medicine cabinets?

  10. Leaving the house or yard maintenance unattended. Are weeds growing uncontrolled or is trash piling up outside?

  11. Loss of interest in activities or hobbies they once enjoyed. When was the last time they did something they loved?

  12. Missing important appointments. Are they frequently rescheduling missed appointments, or simply not showing up?

  13. Weight loss or poor dieting habits. Have you noticed they’re eating less, or consuming only fast food or prepackaged snacks?

  14. Poor personal hygiene. Do you frequently notice bad breath or body odor?

  15. Trouble getting up from a seated position. Are they struggling to sit or stand?

  16. Frequent injuries or bruising. Have you seen bruises, scratches or cuts appearing more often without any reason or an explanation?

  17. Unexplained dents or damage on their car. Are they getting into more accidents? In general, are they not paying attention to their car or safety?

If you notice any of these signs, or if you believe your loved one’s health or happiness is at risk, it’s time to have an open and caring conversation about it. A variety of care options are available for your aging parents.

Plan early and use the education, resources and guidance in your profile to make a plan of action!