Is It Time To Get Help?

One of the hardest things to judge is exactly when a person may no longer be able to care for themselves by themselves—especially when that  person is your parent.

So how do you determine when it’s time to get help?

Is It Time To Get HelpThe answer for the most part is right in front of your eyes—in their house, in their car, in the person’s physical appearance. Here’s what to look for:

Personal Appearance and Care

  • Do they stand up straight or are they bent over? Are they leaning to one side?
  • Are they maintaining their normal weight?
  • When walking, is their gait strong? Or are they shuffling more than stepping?
  • Are they clean? Shaved? Are their nails clean? Is their hair combed?
  • Are their clothes clean? Pressed? Are they dressed appropriately for the weather?
  • Are their buttons buttoned properly; are zippers zipped?

Inside the House

  • Is the house kept the way it always has been? Or do you see a change?
  • Is the kitchen sink clean? Are beds made? Carpets vacuumed? Plants alive?
  • Is the garbage taken care of correctly?
  • Does the pet have food and water?
  • Are things that used to be put away now left out?
  • If they take medication, is it stored neatly in a sensible place? Using the date on the bottle, can you tell if it is being taken as prescribed?
  • Is mail in an unorganized pile? Are unpaid bills left around? Are checks to pay bills written but never sent?
  • Does the refrigerator have old, spoiled food or not enough food?
  • Are the dishes, glasses, and flatware properly put away and clean?
  • Is their own bedroom, bath and closet well kept or do they appear dirty or unorganized?

Outside the House

  • Has regular maintenance been carried out on the outside of the house and other structures?
  • Are the gutters clean? Porches swept? Windows washed?
  • Has the grass been mowed, the shrubs trimmed, flowerbeds weeded?

The Car and Driving

  • Are there signs the car has been in minor accidents? Any new dents from running into the garage or another bumper?
  • Is the car well maintained? What does the change-oil sticker say vs. the mileage? Are the fluids full? Is the registration current?
  • When you drive with them, can they get in and out of the car with ease?
  • Do they drive too slowly? How is their reaction time? Do they tailgate?
  • Are other drivers on the road annoyed?
  • Do you feel afraid?
  • Do they know where they are going?
  • Do they have trouble parking?
  • Can they drive safely and confidently at highway speed?

The answers to these questions can serve as indicators of immerging concerns from waning eyesight to the onset of dementia to typical issues of aging. If you see a pattern of decline, the cause of the decline should be determined by a physician to see if any treatments can improve or slow the condition.

As with so many issues of aging, there are no hard and fast rules as to when to step in and when to butt out. However, if what you have observed leaves you feeling uncomfortable, then trust that you have the evidence you need to begin to look into finding needed support services. A great place to start is your local Council on Aging. The staff there can direct you to people who can help you determine exactly the level and what kind of supports are warranted and where to find those services in your area.


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Brett Hulsey

Joanie Fischer
Executive Editor

Katie Cornwell
Business Development