Signs an Elderly Loved One Needs Help at Home

There are signs to watch for that will tell you when your elderly loved one needs help at home.

There are signs to watch for that will tell you when your elderly loved one needs help at home.

It is no secret that we are living longer. In fact, the life expectancy for women in the U.S. is 81.2 years and for males, it’s 76.4 years.

Still, that doesn’t mean that elderly parents or relatives will always be spry and able to easily manage their activities of daily living. How can you tell if your loved one needs help at home?

You don’t want to offend them by imposing something on them, but at the same time you don’t want something to happen that could have been avoided, had there been some assistance in place. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Change in eating habits—missing meals or having no appetite
  • Neglecting self-care—wearing dirty clothes or not bathing regularly
  • Decrease in activities that were important to them—not going to religious services or meeting with friends
  • Mishandling finances—not paying bills, misplacing money or credit cards
  • Neglecting housework—if their home isn’t as clean as it once was, dishes are piling up, laundry isn’t getting done
  • Repeated phone calls or calls at odd times—if a loved one calls more than once a day or calls late at night or early in the morning, it can be a sign of memory loss, depression or a cry for help

Of course, recognizing the signs is one thing, getting loved ones to accept help is something else. Both young and old persons want to have control over their lives. Many elderly persons have already suffered losses, such as the death of spouses and friends, or they may have health issues that either limit mobility, increase pain or both. Therefore, living independently in their own home is the last thing they want to lose. So, what is a concerned loved one to do?

Once you recognize the signs, it’s time to sit down and talk about the situation. Experts recommend talking about what you have observed around the house and asking your elderly loved ones for their opinion of the situation. If they acknowledge a problem, brainstorm some options (i.e., How do you feel about someone coming in two days a week to help with meals and medication? What do you think about adult day care?) By asking for their ideas you empower them to take an active role in their own care.

If they don’t acknowledge a problem that’s when things can get tricky. It is important to present concrete examples to show that you aren’t just out to take control of their lives (i.e., The mail is piling up and bills aren’t getting paid. There’s moldy food in the refrigerator and trash isn’t being taken out.) What also helps is to consult with a geriatric care manager. The care manager can make a detailed assessment of your loved ones’ situation and offer solutions. Sometimes hearing information from an objective source can help loved ones accept that changes are needed.

While it would be nice to be able to live out one’s golden years at home without any outside assistance, the reality is that many elderly loved ones need help. It’s not anyone’s fault and it doesn’t mean that you are selfish for needing to get outside help for your parent or relative.

There are situations that are bigger than any personal assistance that you can give. Getting help for a loved one will make their life better and will take a load off of your shoulders once you know their needs are being met and they are being taken care of. At Newman Elder Law our Geriatric Care Manager, Carole Mancini, can help you and your loved ones develop a care plan and find the resources and assistance your loved ones need. For more information visit


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