5 Signs That An Elderly Person Needs Help

signs that an elderly person needs help

What are the signs that an elderly person needs help with activities of daily living? Most of us approach a time with our Mom or Dad or other loved one when we ask what are the signs that our elderly loved one needs help? Here we examine five areas to focus on for guidance.  It is not always easy to tell when an elderly person needs help. This is especially true in cases where the elderly person is fiercely independent and not likely to ask for help or to let you know that he or she is having a difficult time engaging in normal, everyday activities.

By keeping a close eye on your loved one, you may be able to tell whether he or she is doing well, staying healthy, and able to live a productive life.

Five Warning Signs that An Elderly Person Needs Help


Does the elderly person suddenly appear disheveled, confused, or otherwise unwell? Is he or she well-groomed, or is there an unkempt appearance about him or her? Pay attention to matters of basic hygiene and grooming, because when an elderly person begins to suffer from depression or dementia, it is frequently first indicated in a failure to maintain the daily routines of self-care.

Has your senior shrunk in size? A sudden or rapid weight loss can be a sign of many illnesses, including cancer. However, it can also result when an elderly person loses the ability or the motivation to cook simple meals. Sometimes the weight loss can be cured with something as simple as providing different kitchen utensils that are easier to handle and implements such as jar openers.

Living Conditions

Take a look at the home or apartment where your loved one is living. This is one of the very first signs that an elderly person needs help. Is it well-maintained, or is even basic maintenance beginning to become an issue? Obviously it is not reasonable to expect an elderly person to engage in strenuous maintenance activities such as mowing a lawn or remodeling a kitchen; on the other hand, simple tasks such as doing the dishes, changing light bulbs, performing basic repairs, and sweeping, dusting, and wiping up are simple things that an elderly person should be able to do.

Are items in the refrigerator and/or cupboards being kept and perhaps consumed way past their expiration dates? If so, help your senior to shop in smaller quantities or spend a little time with him or her disposing of spoiled items and breaking larger quantities of usable items into freezable portions.

If the routine household functions are not being performed, it may be time for you to consider helping out or getting help. You could arrange to visit and perform simple repairs or other tasks or hire someone to perform them if you are not able to. This will have the effect of preserving the independence of the elderly person and avoiding what he or she may feel is the awkward task of admitting the need for help and asking for it.

Food Delivery Services can be used to send healthy meals to the door step of an elderly loved one.  Hello Fresh is an example of this type of paid service:



Memory Lapses

While it is not uncommon to forget a minor item here or there, you should be on the alert for memory lapses that are increasing in frequency and severity. There is a difference between misplacing your keys and forgetting how to drive home from the grocery store. Read this article for more guidance on this important topic.  Severe memory lapses can be dangerous and are is one of the  clear signs that an elderly person needs help.

Mood Swings

Everyone has a bad day from time to time. It is not uncommon for elderly people to go several days at a stretch feeling like they are in a funk. On the other hand, if your loved one begins to exhibit sudden and/or extreme mood swings, it could be a sign of something more serious than an occasional bad mood. Pay close attention to an elderly person’s demeanor as this may be the only warning flag that you will get when something is wrong.


Be on the alert for a sudden decrease in your loved one’s ability to move around and engage in normal daily activities. When an elderly person begins to show signs of difficulty moving or going up and down stairs, it may be time to consider remedial actions such as obtaining a walker or installing a stair lift. These simple steps can help to prevent a serious injury and preserve the independence of the elderly person.


By being alert for any of these warning signs that an elderly person needs help or anything else that suggests to you that the elderly person may not be completely well, you can put yourself in the best position to notice and address problems before they become significant issues.

If you do not live close to the elderly person and are unable to regularly check in on him or her, you may want to consider doing something such as contacting a home care service to perform such minor tasks as running errands and cleaning the house. This will put someone in close regular contact with the elderly person so that any warning signs will not go unnoticed.

More guidance:  Normal Memory Loss with Aging:  When Should You Worry?


Mayo Clinic Staff. Healthy Lifestyle Caregivers. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/aging-parents/ART-20044126?p=1