It often takes a crisis of some sort to act as a catalyst for conversations to occur about living independently. But if you are paying attention, you’ll likely notice signs indicating your parents aren’t as independent as they once were. Elders who want to remain in their own home may not admit that they need help for fear of being encouraged to move in to an assisted living. But letting things go too far can lead to a crisis situation. Here are some things to look for, to determine if your elderly parent may not be as independent as they once were;

Piles of unpaid bills – Paying bills is one of the first tasks aging parents lose track of, and their adult children may not realize bills aren’t being paid. Letting unpaid bills pile up can be a sign of dementia setting in, but can also be a sign of disorganization and life getting in the way. It’s important to determine what’s going on.

A lack of fresh, healthy food – You may notice spoiled food in the refrigerator, or you might realize the fridge lacks fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables and meats. If your parents have begun relying on boxed, canned food, or microwave meals, that may be a sign that taking care of themselves is getting harder. Also, watch for unexplained signs of weight loss. Eating often is a social experience. And if you don’t have anyone to cook for, because you’re children are grown, or maybe your spouse has passed away, you may not have the desire to cook any more. So you just stop cooking, and therefore aren’t eating as much, which could cause weight loss and poor nutrition. A good way to approach this, would be to offer to prepare meals together. For example, an adult child could tell their mother they’d like to put a cook book together of family recipes. Maybe once a week, prepare a meal together, and eat with them, and put the rest of the food in to tupperware to be re-heated or frozen to eat at another time.

Missed medications – Take a look at your parent’s pill box to see if a dose or two has been skipped. Missing doses or taking too many at one time can be dangerous. Ask your parent how often they see their Doctor. And ask them if they see any specialists. Ask them to tell you what medications they are on and when they take the medications. If they aren’t able to keep track of these things, this may be a sign they are becoming less independent.

A distinct smell – Personal hygiene becomes a lower priority for a variety of reasons mobility, dementia or tiring easily. Some older people may not be bathing for fear of falling. They also commonly have problems with undiagnosed urinary tract infections (UTI’s). Between not bathing or UTI issues, usually there’s a distinct odor of urine from incontinence issues that drives the realization that your elderly parent may need more help.

The car has new dings and dents – As we age, our reaction time slows, and turning your head while driving to monitor blind spots gets harder. Dementia can also be the culprit behind fender benders or sideswipes in a parking lot. If you spot some troubles on the exterior of your parent’s car, it may be time for a conversation about driving.

When aging parents want to stay in their own home and worry that their grown kids don’t want the same for them, they may not initiate these conversations. But extra help from a family member, family friend, or a paid caregiver can extend independence and aging at home with less risk. At Havenwood, we can help with little things, all the way up to 24-hour care. What we tell our client’s is that asking for help doesn’t mean you’re losing your independence, if anything, it helps you stay MORE independent because you’re recognizing the things you may need help with.