Signs an Aging Parent Needs Help

Aging in place can be a positive time in a senior’s life. The ability to stay in their own home, in a familiar neighbourhood, surrounded by cherished memories is what most of us want. As memory and mobility decline, however, the safety of this familiar place can begin to harbour secrets from visitors. Here is a list of some of the signs to watch out for that may indicate that your aging parent needs help:

  • Mail and newspapers piled up, unopened and unread
  • Medications that are used up too soon, used too slowly or not renewed on time
  • Towel bars that have pulled away from the wall indicating that they may be used for weight bearing or stability
  • Shower curtains that are torn indicating that they may have been grabbed to prevent a fall
  • Laundry that isn’t done
  • Dirty clothing, sheets and towels that are stashed in the back of a closet
  • Smell of urine in the house including on furniture
  • Unkempt appearance – forgetting to shave, wearing the same clothing day after day, forgetting to bathe
  • Empty refrigerator and/or pantry
  • Mysterious bruising perhaps from falling or losing balance and bumping into things
  • Missing items such as a purse, cane, hairbrush, keys or phone
  • Unaccustomed clutter
  • Utilities that have been turned off may indicate a forgotten bill payment
  • Weight loss
  • Mood swings
  • Taking time to recognize people who should be familiar

Many of these types of things can begin to happen slowly – happening one day and then not for several days before happening again then becoming more regular occurrences. Some issues can be dealt with, for instance grab bars can be installed, setting up automatic bill payments at the bank can keep the lights on, services like Meals on Wheels can keep nutritious meals coming while family dropping by can make a habit of bringing leftovers or throwing a load of laundry in the washer during their visit. Check out the Home Safety Checklists in our Toolkit for other steps that can be taken to make a home physically safe for an aging senior.

Ultimately if the security of the home becomes a hazard to the safety and well being of your parent, options such as long term care residences may need to be considered. In the short term, keeping eyes open and knowing what to look for can keep your parent functional as he or she ages in place.