Signs Your Parents May Be Unsafe If Alone

It can be difficult, at times, to differentiate between normal, age-related decline and something more serious. Try to observe and carefully listen to your aging parents when visiting. You may uncover subtle or flagrant details as to their health and functionality.

There are several ways to determine if elderly parents are losing their independence. Below are some signs to look for:

1. Scorched pans: Or, improper cooking methods. Years ago, Home Care Partners had a client who would put flammable materials in a microwave. This, very obviously, indicates an inability to cook safely, and could pose a bigger fire hazard.

2. Maintaining hygiene: Pay attention to body odor, grooming, soiled clothes, incontinence, and dressing according to the season.

3. Mystery bruises: Unexplained injuries are likely to be signs of falling. And elderly parents may not remember or be willing to admit such.

4. Loss of memory: Forgetting something at the store is a sign of “benign” memory loss; forgetting something at the store and not remembering that you did when someone reminds you of it is “malignant,” or pathological memory impairment. Try to distinguish between a simple memory lapse and memory failure.

5. Car damage: Look for dents and scrapes that cannot be explained or recalled. My Father provided ample evidence of failing eyesight and driving skills based on the paint scrapes left on the car. (A good test is to simply drive with your aging parents to determine whether or not he/she is safe behind the wheel.)

6. Random check-writing: My Mother was guilty here…sending money to previously unknown “charities” or other out-of-the-blue expenditures can signal an inability to exercise appropriate judgment.

7. Physical aggression: A senior who attacks others because they are believed to pose a threat shows an inability to control feelings of distress.

8. Making inaccurate assertions: Signs of dementia/delusion may include “psychotic ideation,” in which clearly untrue statements are made, such as “They’re talking about me on T.V.,” or “I saw three men in my bedroom last night.”

9. Unopened mail: Is there a huge pile of untouched mail? Watch for unpaid bills or other neglected household duties. (Garbage build-up? Laundry?)

10. Spoiled food: Food left unrefrigerated or kept around long after it’s “sell by” date can indicate mental instability.

11. Poor Nutrition: Very important to pay attention to weight loss. This can be a strong “hint” for elderly in decline. Is there a loss of appetite or unwillingness to cook for themselves?

12. Missed appointments: Failing to meet a friend or doctor without cancelling in advance may be a sign of declining health.

13. Easily disoriented: A failure to recognize familiar spaces, wandering, or getting lost in well-known areas are early signs of what may be Alzheimer’s Disease.

14. Word problems: Not being able to recall a common word for something, or constantly repeating oneself can be a symptom of dementia or mental illness.

JD Miller

About JD Miller

John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. Phone: (781) 378-2164 Email: Website:

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