Your aging parent: 8 warning signs you shouldn’t ignore

Your Aging Parent: Eight Warning Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore is contributed by Walton Law in January, 2023, as an online article at

It is no secret that many people have difficulty asking others for help. Elders living in Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties are no different. Even though physical and mental capabilities may start to diminish with aging, it is still not easy for many seniors to let others know they are struggling.

That is why it is up to all of us to keep an eye on aging family members. Below is a list of warning signs that a senior parent may need help from family members or professionals.

Warning Signs

Abnormal or repeated phone calls.

If your mother, father, or other elder family members begin making phone calls to you repeatedly, or at peculiar times of day, it may indicate confusion. It may also be a sign of memory loss or could indicate that they are feeling lonely or depressed. If you notice these types of calls, try scheduling set calls with your senior loved one every day to see if they stick to those times and calls. If they don’t, it may be indicative of cognitive decline.

Weight loss/lack of food in the home.

When you visit, take notice of their appearance. Are they maintaining a healthy weight? If they’ve lost a substantial amount of weight, look in the refrigerator to confirm that there is food, and that the food has not spoiled. If there is nothing to eat, this can indicate that your loved elder is finding it difficult to shop and/or cook and are thereby not taking proper care of themselves. This may be a sign that they need your help in shopping, preparing meals for the week, or even that they need to see a physician.

Mail is piled up, unopened or has not been retrieved from the mailbox.

When you visit, take notice of mail — opened or not — that has piled up or is sitting in the mailbox. That is a sign that your parent may be overwhelmed by once routine tasks, and that may also indicate whether they are feeling depressed or confused.

Trouble managing their finances.

If your aging parent has been scammed or taken advantage of by a service provider, bought things they didn’t need from a telephone solicitor or tried to wire money to unknown parties after receiving a threatening email, they may have trouble with reasoning and cognition.

Their home is unusually messy.

If your aging parent has traditionally kept a neat home, but you find their home is cluttered or dirty, this may be a sign they need help. They may be in physical pain and unwilling to clean, or they may be too tired, or even depressed. If you notice a sudden change in the appearance of their home, it can be a warning sign that they are having a hard time and need assistance.

Cooking and baking pots and pans are burnt.

If you see scorch marks on pots, pans, or baking sheets, it may indicate difficulty with short-term memory. They may be forgetting they have left the stove or oven on after making a dish. This is a warning sign you should never ignore, as it has safety ramifications not only for your loved elder, but also for their neighbors.

They aren’t changing their clothes or are wearing clothing inappropriate for the weather.

If your aging parent seems to be wearing the same clothes over and over or shows signs of poor personal hygiene, it may be a signal that they are struggling mentally, emotionally or physically. They may have difficulty doing laundry because it is located on a different level of the home, or it may indicate depression, or cognitive decline wherein they are having difficulty assessing the proper clothing to wear for the weather.

They are missing doctor’s appointments and/or medication.

Missed appointments may indicate memory problems, or difficulty in securing transportation to their appointments. This can be dangerous for an elderly parent who needs medication, so if you determine that they are missing their appointments and and/or are not taking their necessary medication, it may be time to consider consulting with their primary care physician or hiring a local caregiver to provide medication management services.

Speak up and Advocate on Their Behalf

If you notice any of these warning signs that your elderly parent who lives in Bellingham, Oak Harbor, Mount Vernon, Anacortes or beyond may need help, don’t be afraid to speak up and to start advocating on their behalf. Often an elder may need something as simple as transportation a couple of days a week, or a housekeeper a few times a month. In other cases, they may need to move into an assisted living community.

It’s important to understand that your parent may not ask for help, or they may be resistant to getting help even though their health and safety relies on it. You may need to ask your loved one questions and ascertain as best as you can whether they are still capable of living without any assistance.

Walton Law, APC is a Bellingham-based law firm dedicated to representing injured parties in the areas of nursing home abuse and neglect and personal injury. If you believe a person or entity has abused an elder you know, contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Walton Law, APC

Bellingham office


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