Many individuals prefer to remain in their homes for as long as possible, and it’s understandable. Home provides a sense of comfort and control over daily life. However, for certain older adults, continuing to live at home can pose risks. Despite their reluctance to acknowledge it, staying at home may diminish their quality of life. Moreover, there could be potential health risks, particularly if they live alone or exhibit erratic behaviour.
It’s crucial to recognise when your parents require assistance with daily activities for their well-being and your peace of mind. What signs indicate that aging parents need help? Observe changes in their movement, appearance, and behaviour, as these could signal underlying issues. Consider scheduling a checkup with their doctor to address any concerns. Implementing simple changes to their home can also enhance their quality of life. Exploring options like in-home care or a transition to institutional care may further contribute to improving their overall well-being. In their capacity as social gerontologists, the authors enumerate the clear indicators suggesting a need for assistance.

  • Roshan J Mundapallil, Sowmya Lakshmi

Have you observed your aging parents undergoing a decline in recent months or years? It can be unsettling, especially when you perceive decisions that may not be optimal for their situation. Managing elderly parents can be frustrating, particularly if they resist your assistance or advice. Yet, by finding effective communication methods that preserve their autonomy and independence, you can encourage them to make healthier decisions.

Why do your aging parents sometimes make irrational decisions? Aging can be intimidating, with seniors often fearing the unknown, including the loss of independence and potential long-term effects of serious medical conditions. This fear might explain why many seniors resist seeking help and are sometimes secretive about new symptoms.

Various factors influence your parents’ decisions, and the way you approach them can significantly impact the outcome. The following tips can assist you in managing conflicts and navigating decisions about your aging parents in a supportive rather than pushy manner.

1. Memory Concerns

Have your parents started missing appointments or forgetting bills? Are they getting lost more often or placing common items in odd locations? Maybe they’re struggling with medicine dosages or skipping them altogether.
Noticing increased forgetfulness in an aging parent can be alarming. While minor memory lapses are common with age, significant issues like getting lost in familiar places or regular forgetfulness leading to burnt food may signal a more serious problem. These challenges could be indicative of conditions like Alzheimer’s or other age-related forms of dementia. Seeking professional help can assess cognitive impairment and guide towards appropriate treatment.

2. Movement Challenges

Mobility is crucial for independence, social engagement, activity, and a sense of security. As we age, concerns about mobility become more prominent. Older adults may transition from complete independence to relying on others for even minor tasks, like grooming or teeth brushing. Mobility limitations vary, ranging from reduced stamina to total paralysis, often contributing to additional health issues. For instance, limited mobility can impact continence. Those with reduced mobility may struggle with daily tasks and need assistance to participate in activities. Navigating these challenges requires accessible home environments, support, and tailored exercise programs.

3. Dietary Concerns

It’s common for older adults to eat less due to a natural decline in physical activity and resting metabolic rate with aging. However, a point comes when a reduced appetite becomes concerning, risking life-threatening weight loss.
Have you noticed your parents losing weight, neglecting meals, struggling with cooking, or opting for unhealthy foods? Challenges with cooking, reading recipes, using utensils, or operating a stove, as well as issues with taste and smell, could be factors. During a nutritional assessment, we often check for expired food in the refrigerator. Ensure your parents stay hydrated, especially in summer. Regular nutritional assessments, ideally every six months, are crucial.

4. Social Disengagement

As we age, there’s a tendency to lose connections with family and friends, impacting both mental and physical well-being. Social relationships, facilitated through social networks, play a crucial role in engaging in activities and accessing support, positively influencing health outcomes.
Is your mom actively involved socially, visiting friends, engaging in faith, civic, or community activities? Or does she seem disinterested, low-spirited, and lacking energy? It’s important to intervene and encourage your parents to integrate socially to the best of their ability. Sometimes, facilitating this integration may be necessary.

5. Changes in Personal Care

Have you noticed your parent’s hair unkempt and teeth unbrushed? Is your father neglecting regular visits to the barber or wearing soiled clothes? Is your mother skipping nail care? Disregard for personal appearance may indicate underlying physical problems, depression, or even Alzheimer’s. Discuss your observations with your parents to understand their perspective.
With age, maintaining personal hygiene can become challenging. Difficulties in showering, bathing, or standing at the sink may arise. Seniors might resist help, creating a struggle for caregivers. Forgetfulness can also contribute to lapses in hygiene. In such situations, offering support and assistance with essential hygiene tasks becomes crucial.

6. Shift in Behaviour

Have you observed recent changes in your parents’ personalities, particularly in the evening? Are they speaking loudly or softly, making unfounded accusations, expressing a need to check on children, or displaying other unusual behaviours? Consider a psychological evaluation to understand these shifts.

7. Changes in Senses

Does your father mention struggling to hear clearly, perceiving voices as mumbling? Imagine the frustration of poor vision, making it challenging to read a newspaper or see someone’s face. Why do some older individuals find that food doesn’t taste as vibrant as it once did? The efficiency of sensory organs—vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch—diminishes with age, but the onset and rate of decline vary among individuals. These changes can impact how we perceive and respond to the world around us, affecting mobility, dependence, communication, and self-esteem. Significant sensory alterations may deprive us of simple pleasures and complicate daily tasks.

8. Excessive Clutter

Have you noticed dirty laundry or unopened mail, especially in the kitchen and bathroom? Is the garden neglected, or is the lawn overdue for mowing? Your parents may be finding home maintenance challenging. It’s time to discuss the importance of upkeep and decluttering. A cluttered home poses potential hazards. Clearing unused items and organising the remaining ones can prevent accidents. For your mom, this means avoiding struggles or tripping, reducing the risk of injuries like broken bones. A tidy home is especially beneficial for a parent with a physical disability, making movement more manageable.

9. Unexplained Marks and Blood Clots

Have you observed unexplained bruises, bumps, scratches, or clots on your loved one? These signs may indicate challenges in self-care. While a stumble might seem like the cause, a thorough evaluation can reveal underlying issues contributing to such incidents. Whether it’s unusual bruising or symptoms suggesting a problematic blood clot, early treatment is crucial for better outcomes.


If you observe these signs, engage in a conversation with your parents about the changes you’ve noticed. Many parents may hesitate to admit they need help, fearing they might burden their children. Listen to their concerns with empathy. Once it becomes clear they can’t live alone, the family should take prompt action to prevent a worsening situation.
Social gerontologists, like us, possess education and expertise in various fields related to aging and chronic care, such as counselling, gerontology, mental health, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychology, or social work, with a specialised focus on aging and elder care issues. We have extensive knowledge about the costs, quality, and availability of resources in communities.