When Aging Parents Can’t Live Alone: 16 Warning Signs To Look For

Watching parents age is a profound aspect of life, filled with emotions and tough decisions.

For adult children, it can feel like one minute your parents are laughing with you in the backyard, full of energy and laughter, and the next, they forget to turn off the stove, a concerning sign that their safety at home is at risk.

Knowing the warning signs that your elderly parents may no longer be able to live alone is crucial in ensuring they receive the care they deserve to continue enjoying a high-quality life.

In this blog post, we list 16 physical, cognitive, and emotional indicators that can help you determine if it might be time to consider additional support from a caregiver for your elderly parents living at home.

This support can range from around-the-clock respite care to daily or weekly companion care, a comforting and viable alternative to relocation to a senior or specialized care facility. In-home care is particularly valuable for those who may not require constant care but benefit from periodic assistance and supervision.

Physical Warning Signs

The following are nine physical warning signs that your loved one may need support from an in-home caregiver.

1. Changes in Home Maintenance

As seniors age, physical limitations, decreased energy levels, and cognitive changes can make the demands of routine home maintenance more challenging to manage.

If you observe any of these subtle yet significant changes in your parent’s ability to keep up with home maintenance, it might indicate a need for additional support:

  • Their lawn being mowed less frequently
  • Mail piling up
  • Overflowed garbage or recycling
  • Clutter accumulating in living spaces
  • Minor repairs going unaddressed (e.g. leaky taps, burnt-out light bulb)
  • Dirty dishes on the stove or in the oven

2. Neglecting Personal Hygiene

Another critical area to monitor is personal hygiene, as deterioration in personal care can often indicate broader health or cognitive issues such as depression or dementia.

Subtle changes in appearance that might not be immediately noticeable can be quite telling. Some signs that indicate elderly adults are neglecting personal care include:

  • Wearing dirty clothes
  • Having overgrown nails
  • Having unkempt hair
  • Not showering as frequently
  • Wearing the same socks for multiple days in a row

3. Unexplained Bruises or Injuries

If you notice bruises or injuries on an elderly person and they can’t recall how they occurred, it may be because they are reluctant to share the details, fearing that admitting such vulnerabilities could lead to overreaction or concern.

In these situations, it’s crucial to talk to your aging parents with kindness and understanding. Start a gentle conversation about their well-being and future care options, emphasizing that your primary goal is to support and enhance their quality of life. This approach helps maintain their dignity while addressing safety concerns.

4. Decreased Engagement with Social Activities

A subtle pullback from social interactions or activities they once enjoyed could be a sign of depression or a physical issue like hearing loss, making social situations difficult.

Should your aging parents living at home feel isolated, consider connecting with a caregiver who can do some fun and stimulating activities with them or encourage them to join retirement communities.

An informational graphic titled "Fun & Stimulating Activities for Seniors with Dementia" from Ohana Care. It's divided into three sections. The first, "Brain Games," suggests threading pasta with a string, making a family tree, identifying provinces and territories on the Canadian map, and playing with soft coins. The second, "Physical Activities," includes playing instruments, doing chair yoga, going for a walk, and doing light exercises, illustrated with images of seniors engaging in these activities. The third, "Social Activities," recommends playing balloon volleyball, singing songs, having a tea party, and playing 'Alphabet Soup'.

5. Changes in Eating Habits

According to the Government of Canada, just over 30% of seniors have a normal weight, with 40.1% having a BMI within the overweight category, 1.4% in the underweight category, and 28.1% in the obese category.

Both under and overweight BMIs can elevate the risk of various chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis.

If you notice your parents are gaining or losing weight, it could be due to difficulties in cooking, eating unhealthy foods, or a lack of interest in eating, possibly due to difficulty in tasting or swallowing.

6. Missed Medications

Seniors with high blood pressure have a 540% higher risk of hospitalization, rehospitalization, and premature death by missing medication. If your senior living at home misses taking their blood pressure medication, the repercussions can be detrimental.

Subtle signs, like pills not being taken properly or confusion over medication schedules, can be critical indicators that your parents are struggling with the complexity of managing their health care.

7. Unusual Fatigue or Sleep Patterns

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend seniors should get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

If you notice changes in energy levels or your elderly parent mentions they are struggling to sleep, it could indicate that they have an underlying health issue.

8. Difficulty with Mobility or Balance

Keep an eye out for subtle physical signs, such as seniors gripping onto walls, furniture, or other objects while navigating their homes. These behaviours can signal issues with balance or mobility.

It’s important to understand that such difficulties not only increase the risk of falls, the leading cause of injury among older adults, but can also indicate other health issues, like joint problems or neurological conditions.

9. Pet Care Negligence

If your aging parent has pets, any neglect in their care, such as forgetting to feed them or clean up after them, could indicate a decline in their ability to care for dependents.

This may reflect on their decreasing physical abilities and signal cognitive challenges like memory loss. Observing how seniors manage pet care responsibilities can provide insights into their overall well-being. It may also suggest additional support or supervision to ensure the safety and health of the seniors and their pets.

Cognitive Warning Signs

An elderly woman with grey hair is gazing thoughtfully to the side.

The following are five cognitive warning signs that your loved one may need support from an in-home caregiver.

Because cognitive changes can be subtle and progress slowly, they might not be immediately obvious. If you suspect cognitive decline, it’s important to stay observant and note any red flags, as early intervention can make a significant difference in management and healthy aging.

10. Difficulty Managing Finances

Unpaid bills, unopened bank statements, or frequent calls from banks can indicate that your parent is having difficulty managing finances.

This struggle may not be immediately apparent unless you are closely involved in overseeing their finances. It’s important to recognize that these signs could also suggest underlying issues, such as a decline in cognitive function or memory loss, which can impair the ability to maintain financial order.

11. Variability in Mental Acuity

If your parent exhibits signs of unusual forgetfulness or confusion at specific times of the day yet seems perfectly coherent at other times, this variability might indicate the early stages of cognitive decline.

Such fluctuations in mental acuity can sometimes be a hallmark of conditions like vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, where symptoms can worsen during what’s known as “sundowning”—an increase in confusion and agitation that occurs late in the afternoon and into the night.

12. Signs of Poor Judgement

If you notice your parents beginning to display signs of poor judgement, it may be time to consider additional support to help safeguard their well-being and finances.

Here are some indicators of declining judgement to watch for:

  • Donating large sums of money to unfamiliar organizations or individuals.
  • Making impulsive purchases of items they do not need and may never use.
  • Entering financially risky ventures without understanding the implications.
  • Ignoring essential bills and financial obligations while spending on trivialities.
  • Showing confusion in everyday decisions, such as dressing inappropriately for the weather or mismanaging medications.

13. Hoarding Behaviour

Some older adults may accumulate items excessively as they age, leading to unusual clutter in their homes.

This change in behaviour can create significant safety and health hazards, obstructing clear pathways and complicating daily activities. More than just a risk to physical safety, hoarding can also signal underlying cognitive decline or emotional distress.

It’s essential to address these signs sensitively, as they can be indicative of broader mental health challenges such as depression, which is common but often overlooked in seniors.

14. Altered Communication Patterns

If your normally talkative parent becomes withdrawn or rarely initiates conversations, it might indicate cognitive changes or depression.

Conversely, if they start repeating stories or questions more frequently, it could be a sign of memory loss.

An infographic titled "Memory Changes: Normal Aging vs. Warning Signs for Intervention." On the left side, under "Normal Aging," there are bullet points listing temporarily forgetting names or appointments but recalling them later, misplacing items like keys, glasses, or remote controls but eventually finding them, and having moments where the right word is "on the tip of the tongue," especially under stress or fatigue. On the right side, under "Warning Signs for Intervention," the bullet points mention often forgetting recently learned information, important dates, or events without improvement, asking the same question multiple times in a short period, and getting lost in familiar places or forgetting familiar routes while driving.

Emotional Warning Signs

A man sitting on a couch looking out the window.

15. Mood Swings or Personality Changes

Look for out-of-character changes in mood or personality. Increased irritability, confusion, suspicion, or anxiety, especially in familiar settings, can be subtle signs that something bigger is at play.

16. Increased Isolation

According to the Government of Canada, 30% of Canadian seniors are at risk of becoming socially isolated, and 24% of seniors over 65 feel isolated from others and wish they could participate in more social activities.

If you believe your aging family member is feeling isolated, it may be a sign that they can’t live alone and need in-home care support.

Help Your Parents Remain in Their Private Residence With Our In-Home Care Services

A joyful woman seated while a caregiver stands behind her with her hands on the elder's shoulders.

Recognizing any of these 16 warning signs in your aging parents can be worrying, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this journey.

At Ohana Care, we understand the complexities seniors may feel when transitioning to in-home support. That’s why our compassionate and professional caregivers are dedicated to ensuring your loved ones receive the respectful and dignified care they deserve right in the comfort of their own home.

If you notice these signs in your parents, don’t wait. We can offer respite care, companion care, or dementia care to ensure they receive the necessary support.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help support your family with personalized care plans that promote safety, independence, and peace of mind.

Let us help you ensure that your parents’ later years are as comfortable and fulfilling as possible.

Ohana Care

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