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10 Signs Your Parent Needs Help at Home

Updated on January 28, 2013

Beginning with subtle changes, you suspect your parent is having trouble at home. The warning signs may not be evident at first and will likely escalate. It is important to recognize early warning signs of trouble at home and take steps to find help for your parent or loved one. Arranging for help at home early will make a difference in maintaining independence and managing costs.

Independence is important to us all, but can be an anchor to our well being as we age. When warning signs begin to appear it is time to begin a conversation with your loved one centered around approaches to getting help at home. Typically this conversation is met with resistance, but it is important to continue toward agreement on which types of help to arrange, who will be the helper and when help is scheduled.

There are many helpful resources available that offer multiple choices. The first step is to visit your physician for a wellness check up.

Difficulty with Walking and Balance

Physical strength is important for independence. Difficulty maintaining balance and trouble walking are signs of physical weakness. Often parents begin to shuffle instead of walk on use furniture for assistance with walking. Moving from a sitting to a standing position or trouble lifting one's foot over a bath tub side wall are also signs of weakness. Although signs may appear minimal at first, taking action will help over the long run.

If signs are minimal, suggest participation in an exercise program.

Use adaptive equipment such as shower rails, walkers or canes.

Remove area rugs, they are a tripping hazard.


Everyone forgets things from time to time, but it is important to recognize when a parent or loved one begins to forget activities that have been a part of their normal routine. We often associate memory problems with aging, but sudden changes often signal issues. Some common causes of forgetfulness are depression, Alzheimer's disease, dementia and errors with medications


A Change in Home Clenliness

Changes in home cleanliness are a big red flag. Often the size of the home is too large for an elder to manage and may be overwhelming. Changes in household cleanliness arise from loss of physical stamina, feeling overwhelmed or depression.

Unpaid Bills

Unpaid bills suggest changes in a normal routine. There are many reasons elders stop paying bills, they may feel overwhelmed and have anxiety. The fear of running out of money, dementia and onset of Alzheimer's disease. It may be that your parent simply does not want the responsibility any longer. Further investigation is warranted.

Weight Loss/ Gain

Sudden changes is weight signal changes in behavior. What is causing the weight loss or gain? There many reasons for changes in weight including side effects from medication, reduction in activity, depression and illness. Some investigation further is needed

Noticable Decline in Grooming Habits

Personal grooming is important to most all of us. Noticeable changes in habits of daily living may signal changes in health and wellness. While some changes accompany aging due to physical limitations others are likely health related. Bathing for example often occurs less often because of frail skin or becoming chilled after bathing. The smell of strong body odor or urine should be investigated.


Missing Medication

Missing medications can lead to an array of additional health and wellness issues. The medications themselves often have side effects that cause issues with balance, memory or sluggishness. It is important to have medications checked regularly by a pharmacist to ensure there are no cross reactions or over prescribing.

  • Use Med-minders
  • Phone prompts
  • Scheduled visits

Missing Appointments

Everyone will occasionally forget an appointment. However, when appointments are chronically overlooked and missed, something is changing. Depression often leads to low energy and lethargy causing general disinterest in any kind of activity. Additionally, dementia typically causes bouts of forgetfulness.

Changes in Social Activities

Isolation is a sign of depression leading to reduced social activities. Additionally as we age we may be over taxed by the pace others set. Typically elders tend to go at a slower pace.

Finding age appropriate activities or creating social gathering among peers may be helpful in these circumstances.

Unexplained Dents in Car

Eyesight diminishes and reflexes slow as we age. Driving can be a challenge for elders experiencing changes in eyesight particularly causing minor incedents with their cars. Minor dents and scrapes signal a need to have eyesight checked.


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    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      We're beginning to have concerns about my 85 year old father-in-law. Unfortunately, we live three hours apart, so it's hard to check on his home or personal cleanliness. He does have other relatives nearby, hopefully they would alert us to a problem. We speak on the phone most days. His memory seems a bit troublesome, and he seems to be sleeping more. Time for a trip over to see him, I think. Thanks for the prompt.

    • mjboomer profile image

      Mike Elzner 5 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you Tonette for stopping by and sharing your story. I believe that our touch is the most important part of our relationship and have come to understand how we make a difference for others through our lives.

      God Bless....Mike

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 5 years ago from The City of Generals

      Hello Mike. I love this article. Your 10 signs that a parent needs help at home is an eye and mind opener, busy as most of us tend to be, we are forgetting their needs.

      My 80-yr old Dad starts to have body odor, despite taking his regular bath. Wearing dirty shirts was the culprit, and of course, his tray of menthol oils and rubs. I have to empty his bag of dirty clothes every end of the day so he only gets the clean ones. While perhaps we can pay for help, our time and touch is most precious for them. It's one thing they needed most in what could be the slowest days of their lives.

      Voting up and I'm sharing Mike. Thank you for this article. - A thousand smiles and blessings to you. - Tonette