When Jennifer Ross was a little girl, her mother used to take her swimming every summer in the municipal pool. It was a wonderful time for the two of them, and she enjoyed many happy hours in the sun, splashing, and learning how to swim. This past summer, Jennifer brought her children to visit her mother. She had hoped to bring them to the pool where she had enjoyed so many childhood summers, and was looking forward to watching her mother teach her kids how to swim.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite as planned. When Jennifer arrived with her children, she noticed more than one sign that made her think that her mother was having some difficulties. After her father passed three years ago, her mother had stopped going to the pool as frequently in the summer. She seemed to have aged since their last visit. She wasn’t the same, and Jennifer began to wonder if her mom needed some help.

What to Watch For

There are many indications that an older parent may need help at home. You love your parents and you want them to enjoy the best that life can offer. But as your parents get older, they may require some extra help in order to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle. If you notice some of the signs below, you may want to consider some in-home help.

  1. Your parents may be missing important appointments. If you see that healthcare appointments are being forgotten or mismanaged, perhaps Mom or Dad could do with someone to help them manage their time and ensure that regimens (especially medical appointments and medications) are kept in order.
  1. You may see unexplained bruising on your parents. If they are developing difficulties with their balance, they may be bumping into things or falling down. Perhaps they don’t want to divulge this information – it can be embarrassing to admit. It’s up to you to notice and take action.
  1. It may appear that they are having trouble getting up from a seated position. This could indicate a hip or leg problem.
  1. Sometimes, older parents may experience difficulty with walking, balance, or general mobility. Moving around the house and running errands may become more difficult.
  1. If you notice your parents seem uncertain or confused, in areas where they were previously confident, it may indicate some neurological deterioration.
  1. You may be annoyed if Mom keeps repeating herself or if Dad can’t seem to remember what time it is, but this behavior may signal that they may need a little help.
  1. Your dad used to take extremely good care of his personal grooming. Whenever you see him now, it is obvious that he hasn’t shaved in days and his clothes are pretty wrinkled. It may be that he is not as concerned with his appearance as he once was, but sometimes, this lack of care can mean that your parents are having some difficulty.
  1. Mom was always on top of the laundry and kept the house spotless. Now, there are dirty dishes in the sink and it looks like no one has dusted in a month. Sure, Mom has earned a break, but this, too can mean that she’s having trouble moving about as easily as she once did.
  1. You may see unopened mail or mail that hasn’t been collected. This can be a sign that your parents simply are not noticing things that need to be taken care of.
  1. Sometimes, parents who need assistance are late paying bills or balancing their checkbooks. Although late payments can be an indication of financial stress, in this case, investigate. It may mean the letters simply remain unopened or your parents are suddenly finding their personal finances challenging.
  1. If Dad looks like he hasn’t had a good meal in ages or Mom looks like she has lost weight, you might want to speak to their doctor. Sudden weight changes can indicate serious health issues.
  1. Once upon a time, Dad spent every Sunday at the golf course. But since Mom passed, he hasn’t picked up his clubs at all. It may be that he just needs someone around to remind him or it may mean that he has lost some of his joie de vivre. Take note of habit changes or a change in patterns of behavior.
  1. Your mother never used to raise her voice or spoke without thinking; now you see that she frequently loses her temper and yells without cause. A change in temperament can indicate memory problems and illustrate confusion and frustration.
  1. If Mom or Dad is not taking their medications or is taking the wrong dosage, that can be a serious problem.
  1. You might observe some unexplained damage to your parents’ car. This could indicate some loss of depth perception or problems with motor skills in general.
  1. If one of your parents’ moods abruptly changes at sunset, that sometimes indicates a neurological symptom consistent with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. You should consult a doctor.
  1. It might happen that Mom begins to wander off occasionally and can’t remember doing so. If she is a danger to herself, she might need someone to keep an eye on her.
  1. Parents who are finding themselves losing their independence might become overly aggressive. This can be one of the hardest things to deal with for a child.
  1. Obviously, if the doctor has diagnosed your parent with dementia or early onset Alzheimer’s, you should consider getting them some help.

If you notice one or more of these signs, it doesn’t mean that your parents’ lives are over. Not even remotely. With a little help from a qualified caregiver, your Mom and Dad can live fulfilling, rewarding lives. You are not alone and they don’t have to be.