Is it time to step in to help an aging loved one?

Published 10:00 pm Monday, January 23, 2017

In my last article I discussed the challenge of dealing with a loved one showing signs of depression. But what if during your recent visit to an aging loved one you found some “surprises” when you saw your parent(s) and aren’t sure if what you saw indicates a problem that requires action on your part?

If upon entering the home of an aging parent you notice things like unopened mail, a stack of unpaid bills, little or moldy food in the refrigerator, and the house in need a cleaning, what you saw were indications that your loved one may no longer be as independent as you once thought.

As with most adult children, you’ve been out of your parent’s home for years, but you do remember how they lived and if the home was neat and clean. You also know if they were “on top” of any bills and the checking account was always reconciled. Based on those memories if you see things that just “don’t fit” your recollection of their lifestyle and habits, it may be time to suggest some help.

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Here are some common telltale signs that seniors need support:

• Personal grooming habits are declining

• The house smells unclean

• Bill collectors are leaving phone messages

• Lack of fresh, nutritious food in the house

• Obvious weight loss

• Increased forgetfulness

• Changes in habits and daily routines

• Lack of interest in activities and holiday traditions

• Expired medications, evidence that medications aren’t being taken

• Unexplained bruising

• Evidence that the car has been in an accident, i.e. dents, missing side mirrors, scratches

Depending on their age, many seniors come from an era where complaining or asking for help was considered a sign of weakness, and bringing in outside assistance can also mean to them a loss of independence. Denial by elderly parents actually in need assistance is quite common, and isn’t an easy conversation to have. After all, they’re your parents, and may not want to take counsel from someone they still remember as the child they raised.

This is a perfect opportunity to bring in a professional such as a geriatric care manager, who is trained to have this type of conversation and do so in ways that reassure your loved ones that they are not being “forced” out of their routines, homes or lifestyles. The issue here is health, well-being and safety. Offering your help to provide the level of services needed or bringing in professional outside services is often a good first step.

What you, as a responsible adult cannot do in good conscience, is wait for the first big problem to occur to prove your point  that they need help. Allowing bills to go unpaid or checks to bounce does neither you nor your loved ones any good. Taking the steps needed to integrate some services as required is often a good way to begin the process of making sure that they don’t face any major surprises like electricity being disconnected, or failing to follow a doctor’s orders. Sometimes, it becomes your job to exercise “tough love” to keep your loved ones safe and secure.

 Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert speaker on issues of aging, Medicare and Obamacare. Ron is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease,” available as a Kindle book on He may be contacted at 828-696-9799 or by email at