Spotting the Signs: Does an Elderly Loved One’s Living Situation Need to Change?

Admitting that we need help is hard for many of us. Your parents, or other elderly loved ones, may not tell you when they need help. In fact, they may even hide that they are struggling because they don’t want to worry you! They want to maintain their independence, which to them may be synonymous with staying in their own home as long as possible.

Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a catastrophic event – a crisis – before you realize something is wrong and you are forced to make a dramatic change. This wake-up call could be a fall down the stairs and a broken hip; forgetting to turn off the stovetop and starting a fire; or bounced cheques and calls from a collection agency.

It’s not easy for our elderly parents to admit they need help – but if we can spot the signs early and take action, we can avoid these crisis situations.

So how do you know if it’s time to have a discussion with your ageing loved ones about making a change when it comes to their living situation? This could mean staying in their own home but getting more daily help, moving in with you, or into a retirement community, among other options.

Here are some examples of signs that your loved one might need to change their living situation so they’ll have more daily support:

Physical Health Signs

  • Difficulty moving around the house (walking, balance, etc.)
  • Difficulty getting up from sitting
  • Unexplained bruises or injuries
  • Worsening chronic health condition
  • Sleeping for most of the day
  • Noticeable weight loss or gain
  • Decline in bodily hygiene (odours, infrequent bathing, noticeable change in grooming habits, etc.)

Mental Health Signsadditional costs for elder care

  • Extreme mood swings (aggression, depression, etc.)
  • Confusion about day, time, season, or people
  • Forgetfulness (forgetting to take medications, taking the wrong dosage of medications, missing important appointments, etc.)
  • Difficulty keeping track of time and tasks such as time to get dressed, time to go to bed
  • Getting lost when walking or driving
  • Poor judgement about safety (examples include inappropriate food consumption such as eating spoiled food, driving at night without headlights on, or refusing to take key medications)

Household/Environmental Signs

  • No food or spoiled food in the fridge
  • Spoiled food sitting out
  • Excessive multiples of the same food item (condiments, salad dressing bottles, pantry items, etc.)
  • Cooking tools (pots, pans, utensils) with recent burn marks
  • Decline in home cleanliness and increase in clutter
  • Unhygienic bathroom
  • Unpleasant odour in the house
  • New carpet stains
  • Dead or dying plants
  • Yard is not maintained as it normally would be
  • Vehicle has dents or scrapes

Social Signs

  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Pets not being walked or fed regularly
  • Isolation from friendships and other relationships
  • Days go by without leaving the house
  • Loneliness
  • Comments of concern from friends or neighbours

Financial Signs

  • Unopened mail and unpaid bills
  • Insufficient funds charged for cheques written
  • Letters from banks, creditors, or insurers about overdue payments, overdrawn balances, etc.
  • Signing up for unnecessary products/services such as a new furnace with door-to-door sales people

If you notice any combination of these signs it is likely time to have a talk with your parent or loved one about their living situation. It’s important to help them feel comfortable moving forward; a change of residence doesn’t have to mean a loss of independence. For example, many adult retirement communities and assisted living facilities are designed to preserve the independence of their older people while providing the care and support they need.

Check out our previous blog, exploring 5 different living options for elders!

Wherever our elderly loved ones are living, they should be safe and able to enjoy life. If that’s no longer possible on their own it’s time to consider the alternatives.


Silver Sherpa offers a unique combination of healthcare expertise, estate planning knowledge, and project management skills to help the elderly and families. Get in touch with us to discuss your needs – it can be as brief as 15 minutes or as long as you need.

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Susan Hyatt

About Susan Hyatt

Susan is the CEO and co-founder of Silver Sherpa. She is passionate about changing the way we look at ageing and is determined to put her extensive healthcare and international business expertise to work to provide a very different professional service model for her clients.