No one wants to take away his or her parent’s freedom. Unfortunately, as our parents age, you may notice cognitive and physical functions declining. On a recent visit, did you notice that your parent’s home looks more disorganized than usual? Or are they forgetting things that you’ve repeatedly told them?

There may be signs that your aging loved one needs assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). Paying attention to these signs and knowing when your parent needs assistance is difficult. Take some time to visit your loved one and really pay attention to their behavior and their surroundings. Be sure to look for these signs of declining independence:

1. Forgetfulness

We all have our days when we forget our keys or don’t respond to that email, but constant forgetfulness is much more than that. If your parent’s unpaid bills are piling up or they frequently forget to take their medication, it may be a sign of more serious cognitive decline.

Forgetfulness should not be ignored, especially if you notice a pattern. Contact your parent’s doctor if you are concerned about issues with their memory.

2. Changes in Personality

Are you noticing small changes in your parent’s personality? Be sure to take stock of such differences in their behavior. If they’re no longer interested in activities that they used to love, it could be a sign of depression or a more serious decline in overall cognitive ability.

Personality is controlled by the brain, and clear differences in one’s behavior could indicate brain damage — whether it’s due to an injury, like a fall, or deterioration. If your parent is exhibiting drastic mood swings or even if they’re just showing small changes in their personality, you should consult their doctor on what you notice.

3. Decreased Mobility

Not all changes in your aging loved one could be due to deteriorating cognitive abilities. As we age, our mobility naturally declines. A cane or walker may be enough to keep your parent living independently, but if they’re having trouble getting around their home or they’re experiencing issues with their balance, it may be time to reach out to an assisted living facility.

If your mother or father has an uneven gait, weakness or severe morning stiffness, contact their doctor to see if they can be prescribed anti-inflammatory medication to improve their mobility. However, if medication and physical therapy aren’t enough to aid their decreased mobility, alternative living options may be necessary.

4. Bad Hygiene

Similar to an unusually cluttered home, bad hygiene may be a sign of declining independence, especially if your loved one has rarely had problems with their personal hygiene in the past. Whether it’s mental decline (they’re forgetting or are not motivated to clean themselves) or physical decline (they’re unable to get in and out of their bathtub), bad hygiene is a clear sign that you should contact your loved one’s primary care physician.

The thought of losing independence is agonizing for most seniors. However, it is usually in their best interest to move into an assisted living facility, especially if they’re displaying one of the four signs listed above. For more information, contact your parent’s doctor or a senior living community near you.

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