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It is often difficult for families to know when they need to step in and provide assistance or even take protective action with regard to an aging parent or loved one.  This difficulty is compounded by the opposition an aging parent may show toward any type of help.  The following is a checklist families can use to evaluate whether an aging parent or loved one may need help or even protective interventions.  The more signs that appear, the more likely help may be needed.


___      Fluctuating weight (rapid weight loss or gain)

___      Dehydration

___      Discoloration of limbs, finger, toes or lips (lack of oxygen or blood flow)

___      Balance problems

___      Frequent falls

___      Poor hygiene (no bathing, uncombed hair, dirty clothes)

___      Offensive body odor (urine, feces or uncleanliness)

___      Insomnia or too little or other out of character sleep patterns

___      Excessive sleeping

___      Unexplained burns, bruises, scratches, or skin tears

___      Signs of incontinence not properly cared for

___      Dirty fingernails and caked dirt in skin creases

___      Difficulty seeing or hearing

Home environment

___      Excessive unclean dishes piled in the sink & counters

___      Overflowing garbage cans

___      Full toilet

___      Unkempt yard (overgrown grass, litter, tools strewn about)

___      Unusual carpet stains

___      Floors that have not been swept or vacuumed

___      Excessive clutter (newspapers, piles of junk mail)

___      Clutter blocking pathways

___      Excessive prescription bottles around the house

___      Piles of unopened mail

___      Piles of dirty clothing

___      Filthy bedding

___      Unusual odors (urine, garbage, rotting food, unclean pets)

___      Not enough food in the house

___      Failure to turn off stove or water after use

___      Rotten food on the stove or in the fridge

___      Vermin present in the home

___      Doors or windows left open in inclimate weather

___      Acquisition of numerous pets, usually strays

___      Pet feces and urine in the house

___      Lights not working throughout the home


___      Unexplained missing funds or property

___      Checks written for cash in large amounts in round figures ($500, $1000, etc.)

___      Bounced Checks

___      Excessive payments for services

___      Bills for utilities and phone unpaid

___      Utilities being shut off

___      Uncharacteristic financial transactions

___      Large gifts or loans to strangers or a new “friend”

___      Participation in mail scams such as the Liberian Lottery

___      Sudden changes in estate planning documents (Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney)

___      Purchase of inappropriate financial products such as annuities

___      Unnecessary purchase of unneeded expensive items such as cars and RVs

___      Sudden changes in ownership of assets like the house or accounts

___      Sudden changes in beneficiary designations of assets or insurance policies

___      Termination of long time professionals (attorneys, financial planners or CPAs) to replace with a caregiver’s suggested replacement

___      Unexplained and unfounded mistrust of a family member encouraged by caregiver


___      Mood swings

___      Abusive behavior

___      Unexplained fear when a particular person is present

___      Emotional outbursts at inappropriate times

___      Lack of motivation (uncharacteristic)

___      Uncharacteristically anti-social behavior

___      Suddenly ceasing communication with family or friends

___      Suddenly stopping social activities

___      Inexplicable refusal to leave home or a room in the home

___      Paranoia (uncharacteristic)


___      Confusion

___      Forgetfulness

___      Long term memory loss

___      Difficulty thinking of words

___      Repetitive questions

___      Auditory or Visual hallucinations

___      Inability to maintain conversations

___      Loss of ability to read


___      Dents/scratches on the car

___      Obvious signs of the vehicle being in an accident

___      Unexplained absences for long periods of time

___      Wandering

___      Unfilled or untaken prescriptions

___      The inappropriate presence of a new “friend”