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Signs That An Aging Parent Needs Help

Poor hygiene, weight loss, and sudden mood changes are some of the many signs that indicate an older adult may need help or caregiver assistance.

Dementia, stroke, and physical injuries are some of the many health conditions that affect older adults and make it difficult for them to perform everyday tasks without assistance. Sometimes, you may not know your aging parent needs help until it becomes obvious that they are no longer able to care for themselves adequately. Fortunately, many clues and signs indicate your parent may need help so you can make the proper arrangements to ensure they are properly cared for.

Read on to learn more about common signs that show an aging parent needs help and how Lompoc Valley Medical Center can help you care for your elderly loved one.

Poor Hygiene

Bad breath, body odor, unkempt hair, and dirty, wrinkled clothes are signs of poor hygiene that may indicate your parent needs help with grooming, which is a common caregiver service. Poor hygiene may occur on behalf of dementia and forgetfulness or because it may be physically painful for your loved one to perform hygiene-related tasks such as bathing or brushing their teeth. Take note of whether your loved one has been neglecting their hygiene more frequently, as this is an early sign indicating they need help.


Hoarding tends to become more common among older adults, who may collect items they think have tremendous value or remind them of friends and spouses they may have lost. Sometimes, older adults may forget to throw things away or hide items throughout their home—the latter of which is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Your parent may need medical treatment or a caregiver if they have started to hoard things and their living space has become cluttered, dirty, and unmanageable.

Inability To Perform Basic Household Tasks

A kitchen sink filled to the brim with dirty dishes or a foul-smelling bathroom covered with grime may indicate that your parent can no longer handle these chores on their own. Unfortunately, this household neglect level can be extremely hazardous to their health and increase the risk for other medical problems. Leaving food unattended on the stove or in the oven is also dangerous, as these behaviors may lead to a fire. Examine your parent’s living space to determine whether they can still manage basic household tasks independently or whether they can benefit from caregiver assistance.

Medication Non-Adherence

Many older adults tend to take multiple prescription medications to manage various health conditions. As a result, it can be challenging for some to track daily doses of medications (such as how often to take them and when) and to remember to refill prescriptions when they run out. Pay attention to whether your loved one uses their medications responsibly and as prescribed, especially if they take medications for serious conditions or use habit-forming medications such as opioids or benzodiazepines.

Unexplained Dents and Scratches On the Car

Driving can often become more difficult with age, especially if your parent has problems with their vision and memory. Examine your parent’s car for signs of damage such as dents and scratches to determine whether they may be struggling with operating a vehicle.

Difficulty With Getting Dressed

Your parent may no longer be able to easily put on socks and shoes due to physical discomfort or may forget to put on belts and undergarments due to poor memory or dementia. Your parent may also stop dressing appropriately for the current weather. Take note of your parent’s clothing and appearance and whether they may have recently changed their style out of convenience or because they need help.


Older adults tend to have lower water content in their bodies than younger adults, making them more susceptible to dehydration. Some may also have medical conditions or medications that increase their risk for dehydration. Dehydration's common signs and symptoms include confusion, dizziness, fatigue, decreased urination, and excessive thirst. If your parent exhibits these symptoms regularly or appears to drink water and other fluids rarely, they may need help from a caregiver who can remind them to stay hydrated.

Changes In Mood

Abrupt mood changes are a sign of dementia, especially when your parent becomes angry, aggressive, hostile, or extremely irritable out of the blue. Even if your parent does not have dementia, it’s possible they may be upset because they can no longer perform certain tasks efficiently on their own.

Weight Loss and Poor Nutrition

Weight loss becomes more common among older adults affected by dementia or are no longer mobile enough to prepare healthy meals for themselves. Your parent may forget to eat regular meals or may either go to the fast-food drive-thru or snack on junk foods to avoid having to cook. Take note of whether your parent has recently lost weight or appears to be suffering from low energy or poor health on behalf of poor nutrition.

Failure To Pay Bills

Budgeting and managing finances can become difficult and confusing for older adults who may have dementia or memory problems. In instances where the spouse who handled all finances passed away, the living spouse may not be familiar with how to budget properly, especially it’s been years since they last balanced a checkbook. Determine whether your parent has been falling behind on bills and finances by looking for stacks of papers and unopened mail.

Refusal To Seek Medical Treatment

Some older adults will refuse to seek medical treatment, even if there are obvious signs that indicate they need help. Your parent may be in denial that their health is declining or wants to avoid putting any extra burden on you and other family members. These situations can be tough, especially if your parent becomes hostile and angry about your suggesting they seek treatment. If your parent refuses to seek medical treatment, try to be as empathetic as possible, and stress that you love them and strongly care about their physical and mental well-being.

Where To Find Caregiver Support and Long-Term Care Services

Lompoc Valley Medical Center is home to many medical services who offer caregiver support services and long-term care services for older adults who need help.

Our team can help you figure out where to start when considering senior living options.
Call 805-736-3466.