5 Warning Signs that Your Parent Needs Assisted Living

looking for spoiled food in the refrigeratorHe careened around the grocery store aisles driving the scooter they provided. I followed, picking up fallen cans and apologizing to shoppers who jumped out of his way.

My 80-year-old father was a home chef who was thrilled to put the dinner of his choice in his basket: ribs, asparagus and potatoes.

Sadly, those same ribs, asparagus and potatoes were molding in his fridge two weeks later.

Why didn’t he cook them? This really struck me because he loved to cook. Looking back, there were many reasons that all came down to . . . he just needed more help.

I think too, he was pretending that he was more capable than he truly was. We didn’t know that in the next year he would develop dementia and live in a hospital ICU, a nursing home, an assisted living memory care unit and a senior group home.

Look for these warning signs in our own senior’s home. Your elderly mom or dad may need more help than they are letting on.


  • The yard or house is not maintained.

  • There’s nothing to eat in the house.

  • The fridge contains expired or spoiled food.

  • Potholders or pans contain burn marks or a burning stove is left unattended.

  • There are multiples of the same item–10 bottles of ketchup?

  • Your senior has traffic tickets or the car has dents.

  • The car’s warning lights are on–gas, oil, check engine.


  • Your senior stops doing the things they used to enjoy.

  • Your senior is spending days without leaving the house.

  • Your senior would benefit from someone checking on them every day.

  • Your senior complains of feeling lonely or abandoned when you are away.


  • Piles of mail in various places.

  • Unopened personal mail.

  • Increased thank you messages from charities.

  • Letters from banks or creditors.

  • The mail is unopened or bills are unpaid.

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  • Your senior is unsteady, wobbly, dizzy or very weak.

  • Your senior is looking unkempt, skipping showers, forgetting to shave.

  • Your senior has gained or lost weight, potentially having difficulty with cooking or shopping.

  • Your senior refuses to take medications or seek medical treatment.

  • Their personality has changed, become irritable or quiet.

  • To do lists that never seem to get done.

  • The house is overly cluttered.

  • Your senior is recovering more slowly from injuries or surgeries.


  • Your senior misses appointments, gets lost, forgets important information.

  • Your senior has difficulty performing familiar tasks.

  • Your senior substitutes unusual words

  • Your senior forgets recently learned information.

  • Your senior puts items in illogical places.

  • Your senior loses initiative and becomes passive or lethargic.

  • Your senior has trouble following directions.

Is it time to have a gentle conversation with your mom or dad about assisted living or in-home care?

Find templates and comparison tools for that housing or in-home help with the Digital Social Worker tool. It is full of curated links and to help you compare in-home care, a nursing home or assisted living options.

If you want the Warning Signs Checklist from above, download it here.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way as you help your senior in their waning phase of life.