How to determine an aging parent needs help at home

by Mike Campbell Aging Care

How will you know when your elderly parents need help at home? One thing is certain: your parents aren’t likely to be the ones who tell you they need a helping hand!

Admitting the need for help and accepting assistance are not easy for people as they age. The responsibility often falls on family members to recognize the signs that an aging loved one might need support with completing activities of daily living (ADLs).

Seniors have a strong desire to remain independent and in control of their own lives for as long as possible. Typically, an older adult will experience a traumatic event precipitating the realization that they need assistance. Because adult children are often unable to participate in making care decisions before a crisis takes place, the added emotional stress of a sudden hospitalization or fall further complicates this process. One way to avoid this is to start regularly monitoring your parents’ physical and mental abilities and researching long-term care options. This will ensure you are prepared should your parents begin to show signs of needing help.

Warning Signs That an Aging Parent Needs Help at Home
Difficulty Performing Routine Activities of Daily Living
Dressing and grooming
Transferring or moving from place to place (e.g., moving from the bed to a chair)

Changes in Physical Function or Appearance That Indicate a Need for Assistance
Noticeable weight loss due to poor diet, difficulty cooking, eating, shopping for food, etc.
Sloppy appearance due to difficulty dressing and grooming.
Poor personal hygiene and unpleasant body odor as a result of infrequent showering or bathing.
Noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care, such as unkempt hair, untrimmed nails or lack of oral care.
Bruises, wounds or other marks on the body that could indicate a senior has fallen or is having trouble walking or moving from place to place.
Noticeable burns on the skin could indicate a senior is experiencing problems cooking.
Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping for most of the day.

Changes in Behavior or 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.
Increased agitation
Verbally or physically abusive behaviors.
Physical Clues That Your Parents Are Neglecting Household Responsibilities
Inability to independently complete Instrumental ADLs.
Dirty house and/or extreme clutter.
Stacks of unopened mail, late payment notices 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 house (signs of incontinence).
Pots and pans with noticeable burn marks could indicate food has been left unattended while cooking or reheating.
General upkeep, such as the lawn, snow removal or garbage collection, not being maintained as normal.
Signs of unsafe driving, such as automobile dents and scratches.

Warning Signs That Your Parent Might Be Developing Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease or Some Other Cognitive Impairment
Forgetfulness, including forgetting to take medications or taking incorrect dosages.
Missing important appointments.
Consistent memory lapses.
Increased confusion.
Loss of reasoning skills.
Consistent use of poor judgment (e.g. falling for scams or sales pitches or giving away money).
Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
Frequently misplacing items.
Frequently getting lost when walking or driving.
Repetitive speech patterns.
Inability to complete sentences.
Changes in personality or behavior.
Poor personal hygiene and wearing the same clothes over and over.
Inability to recall names of familiar people or objects.

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