4 Subtle Signs That Your Aging Parent Needs Help, and What to Do Next

By Lydia Chan ~

Are you worried about a senior loved one living alone? It’s not always easy to know when an aging parent needs help. Most seniors relish their independence and do everything they can to protect it, including hiding signs they’re struggling to get by alone.

Since so many seniors are reluctant to seek help, it’s up to their loved ones to recognize the signs that it’s time for senior living. My Primetime News provides some tips and resources you can use to help you learn those signs.

4 signs your aging parent needs help

1. Poor hygiene and housekeeping

From overgrown weeds in the front lawn to expired food in the fridge, lapses in hygiene and housekeeping are some of the first signs that a senior loved one isn’t managing well at home. In addition to an unkempt home, difficulties with the activities of daily living may manifest in poor personal hygiene like uncombed hair and wearing the same clothes day after day. While these warning signs typically arise from mobility problems, they can also indicate cognitive changes in seniors.

2. Confusion, forgetfulness, and cognitive changes

These warning signs range from mild to severe, but they’re all indications that life at home has grown more difficult for an aging parent. Subtle signs of cognitive changes include forgetting to take medications, past-due bills and bounced checks, misplaced items, and missed appointments. As cognitive changes progress, you may notice a senior loved one wearing clothing that’s inappropriate for the weather, getting confused during everyday tasks, or exhibiting mood and personality changes.

3. Withdrawal

Seniors also tend to withdraw from social activities as age-related changes grow more pronounced. A senior may be fearful of getting behind the wheel due to vision and mobility changes or feel insecure at social gatherings due to hearing loss or cognitive impairment. If you notice an aging parent is no longer attending their usual activities or the car hasn’t moved from the driveway in weeks, it’s worth further investigation.

4. Unexplained bumps and bruises

Some signs that seniors need help are more obvious. If an aging parent has new bumps and bruises every time you visit, it’s likely that mobility changes are threatening their safety at home. Other signs that life at home is becoming dangerous for seniors include trouble getting up from a seated position and holding onto furniture while walking around the house.

Start exploring senior living options

Once you decide a loved one needs care, and before you broach the conversation, the next step is to research care settings. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to senior living options, and your parent’s needs will dictate the right type of care. If your loved one simply needs help with activities of daily living and medication reminders, assisted living may be a good choice. However, if your parent shows signs of poor hygiene, confusion, unpaid bills, and a messy home, skilled care is a better option. To help with the conversation, investigate different communities, and gather information and brochures. With a variety of assisted living facilities and many nursing home facilities around Denver, you’re sure to land on a few places that will work for your loved one. 

How to start the conversation about senior living

Recognizing the signs that a senior loved one is struggling at home is only the first step. You also have to convince your aging parent to accept help. But how can you convince a senior who’s set on aging in place that they should move to assisted living or skilled care? By letting them come up with the idea first.

Instead of suggesting long-term care right away, talk about the warning signs you’ve noticed and ask your parent how they’re getting along at home. By discussing a senior’s challenges and guiding them toward solutions, rather than dictating a move to senior living, you can help a senior loved one slowly come to terms with the idea of long-term care. You can also let them know that they can age in place until the warning signs become major problems. This may involve making slight modifications to the home to ensure they remain safe.

Your loved one may be fiercely independent, but no amount of willpower can negate the effects of aging. If your aging parent is resistant to seeking help on their own, take the charge in their senior living search. With a gentle push and information about the senior living options available to them, you can get your senior loved ones the assistance they need to stay safe, healthy, and self-sufficient.

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