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We all want the best for our parents, but it’s not always obvious what that means, or what they need. It’s also true that as humans we don’t always ask for help when we need it. Sometimes it only takes a friend or loved one to help recognize that need. Other times, it’s a longer process and a larger conversation. If you think your mother or father might benefit from senior living, take careful stock of their living situation and changing needs before starting a conversation about what comes next.

Neglected daily tasks

Large piles of unopened mail or sudden untidiness in a usually clean home can suggest forgetfulness or loss of mobility or stamina.

Disheveled clothing or appearance

If clothes are dirty or exceptionally worn, or usual habits of self-care appear to have fallen by the wayside, your loved one may be experiencing difficulty completing those tasks.

Missed appointments or bills

If your parent begins missing appointments — social, medical or otherwise — it could be a sign of memory struggles or confusion around time or date. Collections notices or calls resulting from unintentionally missed payments can be an indicator of the same challenges.

Expired food

Spoiled, stale or expired food that hasn’t been disposed of can suggest that an aging loved one is struggling to keep up with household chores, is confused about what they have on hand or hasn’t noticed the spoilage.

Weight loss or gain

Many older adults experience significant weight loss or gain due to poor or insufficient diet. This can stem from a greater struggle of getting nutritional food at their home, meeting changing senior nutrition needs or difficulty preparing food.

Loss of interest in hobbies or changes in habit

Sudden changes in long-standing habits can be indicative of a larger physical or mental change. Watch for changes in motor or cognitive function that may have prompted the shift. Similarly, take note if your parent has fewer social activities or excursions outside the home, as this too may indicate larger changes that could merit professional attention.

Unexplained damage to car or belongings

A loved one experiencing forgetfulness or confusion may inadvertently damage a vehicle or other possessions without any memory of the incident. If you notice such damage, ask your parent about what may have happened and determine if there may be cause to consult a physician or other expert.

There’s no road map or foolproof guide to knowing how and when to step in and seek support for a parent, but keeping watch for simple signs is a good start. For older adults, the signs of changing needs often start at home. Next time you pay a visit to mom or dad, keep a lookout for these small differences that may signal a bigger shift.

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