Do Your Aging Parents Need Help? Here Are 10 Signs

Many Americans live apart from their parents and, in some cases, that can involve long distances where a routine drop-by is not always possible. But near or far away, it’s important to check in with them, particularly as they advance in age. At LIFEID, we know get the worry you have about your parents’ well-being. Our goal is to help you keep them safe, regardless of the circumstances. That’s why we’ve created this list of signs to watch out for – indicators that your parents may need some additional help and supervision. In particular, watch for anything out of the ordinary.

  1. Things start getting messy around the house.

Does the house look unrecognizable from what you’ve known before? Are your parents not keeping up with cleaning or throwing things away? Is clutter starting to overtake their home little by little? This could be a sign of mental illness or deterioration. Or, consider the outside of the house. Is the grass being cut? Is the trash piling up? This might also be an indicator that physically your parents are unable to keep up their place by themselves.

2. Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed.

It could be that your parents no longer go on walks, playing golf or tennis, or maybe they stop reading books or cooking. Such a loss of interest in activities is one indicator of depression. (Contrary to what many believe, depression is not a normal part of aging. Older adults need treatment to feel better like any one suffering from it.) Some other signs of depression:

  • A persistent sadness or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of guilt or helplessness
  • Decreased energy and fatigue
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or negative thoughts
  • Aches, pains, or even digestive problems without a clear physical cause

To learn more, visit the National Institutes of Health, which has a page on depression in older adults.

3. Forgetfulness.

Are your parents losing things? Are they forgetting their keys? Locking themselves out of the house? Have they recently lost their wallet? One thing to keep in mind is that memory loss can be simply a normal part of aging. As people get older, changes occur in the brain and as a result, some people may notice that it takes longer to learn new things, or they don’t remember information as well as they did, or they might start losing things. The bigger concern is when that memory loss becomes more severe, which may be a sign of Alzheimer’s, such as:

  • Repeated poor judgment or decision-making
  • Problems taking care of monthly bills
  • Trouble having a conversation
  • Losing track of the date or time of year
  • Misplacing things often versus time to time

For more on signs, the National Institutes of Health also has a page on the difference between routine memory loss and Alzheimer’s.

4. Trouble getting up from a seated position.
As people age, their muscles can deteriorate. And the legs are no different. The good news is that you can have your parents try to start some basic functional exercises to sit up from the floor or a chair regularly. This will help train their leg (and arm) muscles to make such everyday activities easier.

5. Repeated falling or bruising.
One in four older Americans falls every year and it remains the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for those 65 and older. There could be many reasons for falling. Sometimes it’s coordination and balance, other times it could be medications, vision, or an unfamiliar environment. A few things you can do here:

  • Do a safety assessment of their home
  • Talk about their medications
  • Do an eye checkup
  • Have them engage in exercises that will help their balance and strength

With bruising, the most frequent culprit remains falling or other injuries. However, that’s not the only reason. Medications can cause bruising as can repeated pressure (from, say, using a walker, etc.) If you see bruising and your parents haven’t had any recent falls, it’s time to call a doctor.

6. Changes in mood or mood swings.
Getting old isn’t easy. And sometimes that results in feelings of bitterness and irritability. This can happen even toward people who are caring the most for the them on a regular basis. That said, there’s a difference between an occasional outburst and more regular mood swings, which can be a sign of depression or even the onset of mental illness. If suddenly things seem out of whack, it might be time to visit a doctor as well.

7. Changes in appetite and/or unintended weight gain or loss.
Older adults are no different than any other age group. Occasionally, they might over-indulge and eat too much or have times when they’re not as hungry (which can also mean they might have caught a temporary cold or have the flu.) Those occasional variations aren’t much of a concern. However, an extended period of weight gain or loss can be a sign of several different things, including potentially depression as well. Keep an eye on any issues before they become severe.

8. Confusion and uncertainty when performing particular routine tasks.
As mentioned above with forgetfulness, more severe confusion around basic tasks or even the day of the week can be a sign of declining mental acuity, particularly the onset of Alzheimer’s. Certainly, occasional confusion is nothing to worry yourself over, however ongoing and chronic issues may spell the need for intervention or more monitoring.

9. Keeping expired groceries or even canned goods long past the sell-by date.
You remember your grandmother keeping that can of green beans around for years? The occasional lapse can be forgiven. But if refrigerators have moldy food or your shelves are stocked with products that are long past the sell-by date, then it’s probably a sign of some declining mental function. It likely also indicates a need to have someone start cooking for your parents, cleaning out older items, or helping them at least prepare meals, with reminders to eat leftovers promptly.

10. Changes in appearance, looking disheveled.
It may be that their house looks messy or less organized but your parents are continuing to groom themselves. That’s a good sign in that they are continuing to keep up their appearances. But if you do notice drastic changes – not showering, wearing the same clothes every day, or they begin to smell bad – then it could be a sign of depression, or declining mental facility. Check in with a doctor and get a medical opinion before figuring out next steps.


We hope you found this article helpful. At LIFEID, we want to help keep you safe. That’s why we recommend one of our medical ID bracelets, Apple watch sleeves, or watch accessories, which can speak for you in the case of an emergency. Our medical IDs can also help keep track of your medications and inform your emergency contacts in an emergency as well. Find out more below: