It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between age-related decline and something more serious. However, according to Alan Gruber, M.D., a psychiatrist with a private practice in Massachusetts, there are several ways a loved one can tell if an elderly parent or relative may be unsafe living alone.
Signs Your Elderly Parent May Be Unsafe Living Alone at Home
Here are some things to look for if you are concerned that your parent or loved one is unsafe:
1. Missed appointments.
Failing to meet the doctor for an appointment without cancelling in advance may be a sign of declining health.
Focus on whether your senior parent or relative is maintaining their grooming, hygiene and dressing according to the season.
A failure to recognize familiar spaces, getting lost, or wandering in well-known areas could be early signs of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
4. Memory loss.
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, and bears a closer look.
5. Word problems.
Not being able to recall a common word for something, or frequently repeating oneself can also be a symptom of a cognitive impairment like dementia.
6. Financial issues.
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. Inaccurate statements.
Signs of dementia may include “psychotic ideation,” in which clearly untrue assertions are made, such as: “They’re talking about me on T.V.,” or “I saw men in my bedroom last night.”
9. Unopened mail.
Watch for unpaid bills or other neglected household duties.
10. Spoiled food.
Food left unrefrigerated or kept around long after it’s “sell by” date can indicate instability.
11. Poor nutrition.
Pay attention to loss of appetite, unwillingness to cook for themselves or weight loss.
12. Scorched pans.
These may indicate the inability to cook safely and could pose a fire hazard.
Unexplained bruises or injuries are likely to be signs of falling.
Look for dents and scrapes in your parent’s car or home that cannot be explained or recalled. Be sure to drive and stay with your family member to determine whether or not he or she is safe behind the wheel and at home.
Do you have questions about this list or about moving your parent to assisted living? Our Senior Living Advisors can help you. Learn more about finding assisted living in your area, or visit our resources for caregivers.
About the Author
Alan R. Gruber, DSW, PhD, MD, contributed to this blog article and is a board certified medical psychologist and neuropsychologist who specializes in the diagnosis and management of behavior disorders in geriatric and medically complicated patients.