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These Are the Signs An Aging Parent Needs More Help

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Taking care of aging parents is careful balancing act. On one hand, you want to let them be as independent as possible. On the other, you know you might need to step in and offer to help them out when their physical or mental health starts going downhill. Odds are pretty good that your parents won't come right out and tell you they need help. 

It's tough for many people to admit, especially if they don't want to put any extra responsibilities on your shoulders. So it's up to you to keep a close eye on things, which is easier when you know what to look for, including these four major signs your parent is struggling.

Changes in Appearance

Does  your normally sharply dressed parent suddenly look sloppy and disheveled? Changes in the way Dad looks can be a red flag he can't take care of himself as well as he could before. Not keeping up with regular bathing or brushing his teeth could be a warning sign of depression, dementia, or physical problems. Other physical changes to be on the lookout for include:

  • Weight loss could be sign she's struggling with cooking, shopping, or remembering to eat
  • Bruises or wounds could be a sign he's had a fall recently or is experiencing problems with balance, coordination, and/or mobility
  • Burns on her skin might be a sign she's struggling with cooking her meals

Shifts in Mental Status

Sometimes  the changes in behavior and mental status are subtle in an aging parent. But for seniors with dementia and other medical conditions, those changes can become pronounced. It can be caused by changes in your parent's brain, frustration, or the inability to explain and describe what's going on. Watch for changes in behavior and mental condition such as: 

  • Unexplained shifts in mood and strong mood swings
  • Increasing anxiety, distress, and anger
  • Dwindling interest in the things she always loved to do
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Repeatedly asking the same questions

A Mess at Home

You  might notice that something's up the moment you pull in the driveway or walk through the front door. Not keeping up with responsibilities around the house can take different forms ranging from a lack of general upkeep to a stack of unpaid bills. Other things to watch for include:

  • Extreme clutter and dirty conditions
  • Piles of unopened mail and late payment notices
  • Low supply of food and/or spoiled food that hasn't been thrown out
  • Unexplained dents and scratches in his or her vehicle
  • Trash piling up or overgrown grass

Trouble Getting Around

When  your mom gets up from her chair, does she struggle more than she used to? That could be a sign muscle pain, weakness, or other problems are making it hard to move around and could be making it tough for her to do her normal activities. This can have a trickle-down effect, keeping her from socializing, getting out to go shopping, and maintaining physical activity. Warning signs of mobility issues include:

  • Frequent falls
  • Avoiding stairs
  • Taking a pass on working out
  • Balance problems and unsteadiness

If you notice any of the signs that your parent needs more help, start by talking to him or her. This might be the tipping point that encourages him or her to see a doctor to get evaluated for possible underlying conditions or for making important changes, which include tackling safety issues and creating a plan for your parent's care. 

More Caregiving 101: Tips for New Caregivers articles:
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Sharing Is Caring: Here's How Families Can Allocate Caregiving Responsibilities
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What Are the Normal Signs of Aging in Elderly Parents?
More Caregiving 101: Tips for New Caregivers articles:
Previous
What Are the Normal Signs of Aging in Elderly Parents?
Next
Sharing Is Caring: Here's How Families Can Allocate Caregiving Responsibilities