With medical advances and healthier lifestyles, people are living longer – often 20 to 30 years into retirement. We all hope our loved ones live long, healthy, and prosperous lives, but the reality is many people may require assistance or care as a result of aging and/or illness.

An aging parent or ill spouse may not ask for help. Many people place a high value on their privacy and independence. They may not wish to recognize and acknowledge their struggles, or simply don’t want to be a burden. Often it is up to the adult children to recognize a parent’s limitations and offer assistance and encouragement. Talk to them in a casual and non-threatening way. Your conversations should reflect a partnership and demonstrate a desire and willingness to respect their wishes and address their struggles.

An assessment of their functional abilities should be done on a regular basis to determine if an aging parent, relative or friend may be at risk or need help. Whenever possible, try to observe your loved ones in a variety of situations. Ideally, this evaluation should be informal so as not to cause alarm or appear disrespectful. Trust your instincts. If you have a concern with one or more of the following 10 Considerations, it may be time to explore ways to help rather than waiting to react to an emergency.


  1. MEDICAL CONDITION – Has your loved one been diagnosed with a disease, illness or other medical condition that could impact their ability to function in daily life?
  2. DRIVING – If they drive, is there reason to believe he or she poses an above-average risk of being involved in an accident? How is their vision, reflexes and ability to respond in unexpected situations?
  3. FOOD / NUTRITION – Are they eating balanced meals? Is his or her weight stable? Do they have a reasonable variety of food in the refrigerator with future expiration dates?
  4. HYGIENE – Does it appear that they are bathing and brushing their teeth regularly? How is their overall appearance, grooming and ability to match clothing compared to prior years? Are the bed linens and towels fresh? Does the soap in the bathroom appear to have been used recently?
  5. BEHAVIOR – Do they seem anxious or irritable? Does being away from home make them uncomfortable? Do they seem depressed? Is there inconsistency in the things they say? Do they remember names, places and current events?
  6. DAILY TASKS – Are basic tasks, such as getting ready to go out or preparing a meal or shopping, overly challenging, frustrating or time-consuming for them? Does their living space appear clean? Is there a concern about hoarding?
  7. MEDICATION – Can they manage their medications properly including dosage, frequency and changes to prescriptions? Do they understand why they are taking the medications? Are prescriptions getting refilled in a timely fashion?
  8. FINANCES – Does it appear they are capable of making sound financial decisions? Are they able to manage personal affairs and finances? Do they have a reasonable amount of cash on hand? Have there been any unusual purchases or suspicious expenses or investments?
  9. MAIL – Is the mail stacking up? Is there reason to suspect any past due or delinquency notices? Do they appear to be a target for solicitation and sweepstakes offers?
  10. SAFETY – Are they careful about turning off appliances (e.g. stove, coffee pot)? Do they ever carelessly leave candles or cigarettes burning? Are sharp objects properly put away? Are the stairs and hallways unobstructed? Are the doors and windows locked? Are they able to easily locate the keys? Is there any reason to believe someone is trying to control or take advantage of them?