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Senior citizens are often reluctant to give up the independence they once enjoyed and don’t want to be a burden to their families. They may be reluctant to ask for help, which means their family members need to spot problems and offer assistance.

Common Problems can Have Many Causes
Neglected home maintenance may mean that your parent has been too tired, off balance or in pain to handle chores. If mail and newspapers have been piling up, your parent may be experiencing vision problems, confusion or dementia. An odor in the house may be due to a lack of cleaning, which may be a result of physical limitations or mental decline, or a plumbing problem or mold.

Food in the refrigerator that’s expired, spoiled or covered in mold may point to mental decline. A nearly empty refrigerator and cupboards may mean your parent has trouble getting to and from the store and carrying groceries or doesn’t have enough money. Weight loss may be due to insufficient amounts of food, poor nutrition, difficulty cooking, or a loss of taste or smell that makes food unappealing. If your loved one has been eating unhealthy foods, he or she may have developed medical problems.

If your parent is wearing dirty clothes, he or she may have trouble doing laundry or may be forgetting to change clothes daily. Poor hygiene could be a sign of dementia, depression, or a physical condition, such as arthritis or Parkinson’s, that makes keeping clean difficult.

If you see bruises, cuts or scrapes, ask what happened. Your parent may have fallen and may need a walker or cane, or he or she may have been a victim of assault or abuse.

If you see any dents or scratches on the car, inquire about the cause. Your parent may be having trouble driving due to vision problems, loss of coordination, forgetfulness or confusion.

If you notice bills marked “past due” or letters from collection agencies, ask questions. Your parent may not be able to afford the bills, may have forgotten to pay them or may be confused about how to pay.

A change in your parent’s mood or a recent loss of energy can have a variety of causes. Your parent may be malnourished, depressed, in pain, suffering side effects of medication, or experiencing Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Identify the Problem and Look for Solutions
Many seniors don’t ask for help because they don’t realize they need it or don’t want to be dependent on others. If you have concerns, talk to your parent and ask questions to get to the bottom of things. It may also be helpful to talk to other people who interact with your parent frequently, such as family members, friends and neighbors. If you believe there may be a medical or psychological issue, ask your parent to contact his or her doctor and go along to the appointment if possible. Once you’ve identified the source of the problem, you can explore solutions.

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