Recognizing the signs when your parents might need help.

About 70 percent of adults over the age of 65 will need long-term care at some point in their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The most crucial part, however, is being able to identify when your parents have reached that point.

One thing is certain: your parents probably won’t be the ones to tell you they need help, so being home for the holidays is a good opportunity to observe them further if you’ve noticed what looks like the beginnings of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or even arthritis. Identifying the signs could give your parents more time to plan.

Memory Loss

Everyone forgets a date or appointment every now and then but will remember them later. However, forgetting events regularly and never realizing it is not an issue to ignore. This is an early sign of dementia, and these minor lapses in memory could start to reach further back in your parent’s minds.

Everyday Tasks

Struggling with everyday tasks can vary from making a cup of coffee to changing television channels. They may also begin to struggle with speaking, writing, and communicating with others. Isolated events, like forgetting how to operate new technology, are not a cause for concern, but repeated struggles with common information and communication should be taken seriously.


Sight declines naturally with age, but difficulty understanding the difference between figures and distance is unrelated to mere aging. Spatial and visual image recognition can affect balance, reading, and driving. Related issues may be a difficulty keeping track of the passage of time and being unable to figure out what time of day it is outside.


When you visit your parents, notice how often they wander. They may walk around a bit when you step away. If their environment is safe, this may not be an issue, but wandering outside is an issue, especially if they become confused by their surroundings.


If you ride with your parents and find yourself fearing for your life or theirs, let them know. They may not tell you they are having difficulty driving, focusing, or seeing, but if you notice a change in their driving, or random dents in their car, they may be experiencing some, or all, of those symptoms.


It is time to debunk the myth that people and their houses just begin to smell differently with age. A change in odor due to a decline in personal hygiene or cleanliness around the home could mean that your parents cannot take care of themselves regularly.

Bathroom Blues

Depending on sex and lifestyle, it can become difficult to control when you need to go as you age. Menopause may affect a women’s ability to control her bladder. Some other related issues may make it more difficult to relieve yourself. Constipation and urinary incontinence may make it difficult for your parents to live on their own.

Determining if Your Aging Parents Need Help at Home: A Checklist
– Noticeable weight loss
– Sloppy appearance/poor hygiene.
– Bruises on the body from falls.
– Noticeable burns on the skin.
– Difficulty completing regular tasks.
– Automobile dents and scratches.
– Urine odor in the house (signs of incontinence).
– Pots and pans with noticeable burn marks.
– Unopened mail/unpaid bills.
– Unfilled prescriptions.
– Lack of drive or motivation.
– Failure to return your phone calls.


It is hard to ask for help or talk about these problems, but it is important to remember that quality of life may be at stake.

Note: Always consult a doctor if you think your parents might be a candidate for long-term care.

Thyme Hawkins is an editorial intern with Nola Family and our sister publication, Nola Boomers. She is a student at Loyola University, class of 2021.