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.


Browse Our Free Senior Care Guides

Warning Signs That an Aging Parent Needs Help at Home

How do you know if it is time for help at home or an increased level of care? Look for these red flags as common indicators that a senior may need some form of assistance.

Difficulty Performing Routine Activities of Daily Living

  • Bathing
  • Dressing and grooming
  • Toileting
  • Continence
  • Transferring or moving from place to place (e.g., moving from the bed to a chair)
  • Eating

Read: Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) Defined

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.
  • Unfilled prescriptions.

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.

Read: Warning Signs of Dementia

If you believe your parents are experiencing one or more of the above indicators, ideally the next step is to talk with them about their care needs in such a way that they are able to participate in identifying the problem and coming up with solutions.

Hiring a Home Care Company

If these signs are present, it doesn’t necessarily mean a move to assisted living or a nursing home is required. However, these red flags do indicate that daily supportive care is needed. For many families, hiring help at home allows an elderly parent to stay in the comfort of their home as long as safely possible. Use the guide below as a starting point to help you make informed and confident decisions in the process of hiring in-home care.

Read: How to Select a Home Care Company