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Your parents remember caring for you as a child, so it can be hard for them to accept that the roles are now reversed and that they need your help.

That may leave a senior hiding a host of problems that could be remedied with a little attention from you and, perhaps, a home care provider. People over 65 can become very good at hiding depression, loss of mobility, loss of driving skills, difficulty bathing, and difficulty paying bills, to name just a few of the most common problems.

Things to look for on a visit

Pay attention to the signs of a neglected senior. The following is a partial list of red flags to consider on your next visit:

  • Poor personal hygiene. If a parent smells bad, doesn’t get out of pajamas, and isn’t brushing his teeth, that might be a red flag. Of course, levels of decorum differ greatly from one parent to the next. If your mother always hung out in a hoodie and jeans, and that hasn’t changed, that’s not so worrisome. However, if your dad was never seen without a pair of loafers and a fresh shave, and now he’s barefoot and sporting a two-day beard, that could signal he needs help. What’s important to look for here are dramatic changes.
  • Reduced driving ability. There may be no substitute for asking your mother or father to drive you to the store to get some milk or other essential. This will give you an idea how well he drives, and how stressed out he gets while driving. An increased sensitivity to glare as well as slower reaction times can make driving more of an ordeal for the elderly. And that’s before we get to the list of chronic conditions that can make driving harder.
  • Hoarding. Again, what caregivers want to look for are significant departures from what was normal. If your mother always collected china figurines, a growing collection isn’t necessarily bad. But if newspapers and magazines start piling up around the house along with new purchases which seem to be unnecessary, that’s a sign of hoarding. And hoarding is a sign of mental illness, very often depression.
  • Terrible housekeeping. Maybe your mother never won any awards for a clean house. But if she generally washed the dishes, vacuumed, and dusted from time to time, changes to that regime are a message that she needs help. An unkempt house may mean that your parent is hiding pain or has more trouble moving around than she is letting on.

What can you do?

Of course you want to care for your mother or father yourself, and get your siblings to help out. But, with all the challenges of a career, marriage, and keeping up your own household, caregivers may need help.

That’s where home care can step in to get things back to normal. Home care professionals, who come to your parents’ homes for a few hours to a few days a week, are specially trained to help with daily living activities. Home care workers can help your parents shower, run errands, clean the house, and tidy up.

In conclusion, most people over 65 will eventually need a little help around the house. But that does not mean they are poised to lose their independence. Make a mental checklist of things to look for that point to your beloved parent’s well-being or neglect. And don’t hesitate to talk to a nearby home care specialist.