Subtle Shifts: Recognizing Early Signs Your Aging Parent Might Need Help

Have you noticed changes in your parents' lifestyle? Maybe they're not eating well, neglecting hygiene, forgetting things, or you sense something is off. These signs may indicate they need help at home or a long-term care facility.

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Subtle Shifts: Recognizing Early Signs Your Aging Parent Might Need Help
5 Min Read May 21st, 2024

As our parents age, it's natural to worry about their well-being. But sometimes, the decline can be gradual, with subtle changes that might go unnoticed. What is not going unnoticed is aging and the number of people getting older, not just in the United States but globally.

The world's population is aging rapidly. Thanks to medical advancements, people are living longer than ever before. While this is a positive development, it also presents a significant challenge: the growing need for long-term care for older adults or those who are younger and suffer from chronic illnesses that require long-term care.

The problem is referred to as the “silver tsunami."" By 2050, the global population aged 60 and over is projected to reach 2 billion, nearly double the number in 2020. In the United States alone, the number of adults aged 65 and older is expected to reach 80 million by 2040, more than double the number in 2000.

If you have older parents, you may already see some decline in their health, both socially and mentally. What are the early signs that your loved one may need help with their daily living activities or even supervision due to declining memory? 

There are early warning signs that may indicate your parents could benefit from additional support.

Changes to Watch Out For:

  • Physical Appearance: Unexplained weight loss, unkempt hygiene, or new bruises can be signs of difficulty managing daily tasks or health concerns.
  • Daily Routines:  A once-active parent who struggles with stairs, forgets to take medications, or has trouble keeping up with housework might need assistance.
  • Behavior: Increased forgetfulness, confusion, social withdrawal, or mood changes could be signs of cognitive decline or depression.

Starting the Conversation

Kinnon Fisher operates the Amada Senior Care franchise, serving the Auburn and Montgomery, Alabama, area. Fisher says starting a conversation with your parents is necessary as aging parents become increasingly fragile and need more support.  

Fisher (second from left) and her staff

Fisher (second from left) and her staff

Knowing when to step in and offer help can be problematic for many adult family members. It is challenging to know when to step in, how much, and what kind of help to provide. Geriatrician Dr. Hillary Lum, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine's Division of Geriatric Medicine, suggests having an ongoing conversation with your parents, regularly checking in about their day, and asking if they need help.

Fisher says if you are worried about your parents, you should offer to schedule a doctor's visit and accompany them. If they need care, the family often steps in and helps in addition to professional caregivers, especially early on. 

Practical caregiving assistance is a great way to maintain a continued connection with the community. Grocery shopping, transportation, and overall help around the house save caregivers time and energy, leaving them with an opportunity for quality time with others.

Fisher says it’s essential to ensure your parents feel valued throughout this process and that they feel part of the decision-making.

Benefits of Early Intervention

Catching these signs early before their needs progress can make a big difference. When your aging parent cannot safely complete their living activities related to the ability to live independently, it may be time to provide them with help. 

Dr. Lum says the time to take action is when you notice challenges with what medical professionals call Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. The National Institutes of Health defines this term as" "activities related to the ability to live independently in the community."

Dr. Lum

For example, are they having trouble managing finances, navigating transportation, keeping up with housekeeping, running errands, or making meals?

It won't be long before your loved one needs help with the primary Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). The six ADLs are:

  • Bathing
  • Continence
  • Dressing
  • Eating
  • Toileting
  • Transferring

Help with these activities can be physical "hands-on assistance" or "stand-by assistance." Typically, someone will need stand-by assistance first, meaning they can still do things independently but need someone there "just in case."

Professional caregivers can provide much-needed support, allowing your parent to maintain independence and stay in their home for longer, significantly improving their quality of life and sense of security.

Planning for the Future

It is crucial to have open and honest conversations with your parents about their needs and wishes. Working with a geriatric care manager can help you develop a personalized plan of care that addresses their current needs and anticipates future changes. 

If your loved one has a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, the insurance company may pay for a case manager. Some home health agencies, like Amada, can also provide valuable help in making appropriate recommendations, even if the best option is not in-home care.

Early planning allows for a smoother transition to different levels of care if needed down the road. Michele Kuntz, a licensed clinical social worker at the UCHealth Seniors Clinic – Anschutz Medical Campus, says you'll know it's time to step in and provide help for your parents when you hear from friends or neighbors that they are struggling or – your parents finally have the courage to tell you they need help.

Kuntz says that if your loved one needs to move to assisted living, memory care, or a nursing home, it can be a transition for them. 

However, working with a social worker or other health professional can help you and your aging parents adjust to these changes.

I encourage my patients and families to tour the facilities first and meet the staff. Are the staff friendly? Is the facility short-staffed? Will the patients like the food? Do they have outdoor space?

The LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory is an excellent resource. It has over 80,000 caregivers, senior communities, and long-term care facilities available for you to search. With just a few clicks, you can find and review quality long-term care services to narrow down options quickly.

Quality of Life

Remember, getting help for your parent isn't a sign of weakness—it's a sign of love and proactive care. Recognizing the signs your loved one is declining and is no longer as independent as they once were will help them get professional assistance early on and can help them live a safer, happier, and more fulfilling life as they age.

You will deserve a good quality of life when you get older. Have you thought about how your children will address your aging needs in the future?

The time to include Long-Term Care Insurance is before you retire. Most people do so in their 40s or 50s when they can qualify for preferred health rates. Premiums vary dramatically between insurance companies offering long-term care solutions, so seek professional advice when shopping for a policy.

Even if you are in your 60s or older, you can find affordable options for LTC Insurance depending on your level of health.

Be proactive with your parents and be proactive with your planning. Ignoring the problem will only make it more difficult for everyone.

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About the Author

Linda Kople is a freelance writer with a personal family history in long-term care. She specializes in aging-related topics such as caregiving, health, and retirement planning. Her experiences and interests drive her to explore and write about the various aspects of aging and health issues.

LTC News Contributor Linda Kople

Linda Kople

Contributor since October 31st, 2017

Editor's Note

As you approach retirement, planning for long-term care now can significantly reduce your stress and anxiety about the future. Imagine entering your retirement with the confidence of having a plan for your long-term care needs, reducing the stress and burden you may already be experiencing with a loved one. This foresight allows you to enjoy your future retirement without worrying about the "what ifs" of aging.

Adding a Long-Term Care Insurance policy to your comprehensive retirement plan will ensure you have access to the quality care you deserve. Protecting your future retirement income and assets will preserve your cash flow and help you maintain a better lifestyle, no matter what long-term care expenses you may face. 

A Long-Term Care Insurance policy safeguards your income and savings. Without an LTC policy, the high costs of long-term care could rapidly deplete your hard-earned assets, impacting the financial legacy you intend to leave behind. 

Find a qualified and independent Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you shop and provide accurate quotes from all the top companies. 

Search for Quality Caregivers and Facilities with a Few Clicks

Finding quality caregivers, senior communities, and long-term care facilities for your older family members is simpler than ever with the LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory

With over 80,000 listings nationwide, this free and comprehensive tool gives you the power to search for the right caregiver or facility for your loved one. 

Whether you're searching for caregivers or facilities nearby or where you love done lives, the directory makes it effortless to explore qualifications and choices. 

If you're a care provider, you can claim your free listing or upgrade to enhance visibility through the LTC News Directory Business Portal.  

Additionally, when you or a loved one has LTC Insurance, the door to quality care opens wide. When you speak with a potential caregiver or facility, one of the first questions they ask, if not the first question they ask, is, " Do you have LTC Insurance?"

LTC NEWS offers assistance in processing claims from any Long-Term Care Insurance policy. Partnering with Amada Senior Care, a renowned in-home healthcare agency, LTC NEWS ensures that you and your loved ones receive top-notch care without worrying about securing policy benefits. There is no cost or obligation for this service.

Experience peace of mind knowing you can access quality care services when you need them most - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

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