Seven Simple Clues to Know If Your Aging Dad Needs Help

Seven Simple Clues to Know If Your Aging Dad Needs Help

In this article

Dad leapt tall buildings in a single bound, and you spent a lifetime measuring yourself against him.

But suddenly, as he’s aging, he seems to be slowing down.

You don’t want to take away his independence, but you’re starting to worry about him. You want to make sure he’s okay.

How can you know if it’s time to call in reinforcements?

Thankfully, it won’t take x-ray vision to recognize his need for help. With just a little observation, you can spot some of these simple clues that show he’s ready for a sidekick.

Clue #1: His Only Friend is “Judge Judy”

Loneliness and isolation don’t just wear on a person emotionally.

They take their toll mentally and physically, too.

Yes, it’s possible your father has worked his whole life dealing with people and now just wants to spend quiet time watching TV.

That’s okay in moderation.

But you know how YOU feel when you’ve spent too much time being a couch potato. The muscle aches, the lethargy, the brain fog.

Your dad will be much healthier if he’s encouraged to get up and move now and then. Take a walk, interact with friends, visit places both old and new.

But he might need help arranging activities.

You could

  • invite some of his friends over for a boxed lunch and a game of cards.
  • offer to play chauffeur for him and his buddies to go to a diner and the movies
  • help him find activities at the senior center
  • hook him up with an adult day center (ADC)
  • call the local college and ask for a writing student who would love the chance to interview your dad on his life experiences

You get the picture. Yes, Dad’s earned the right to rest. But lonesomeness isn’t relaxing.

Clue #2: Housekeeping is Too Much of a Chore

Few people love cleaning, but if your father takes so much time keeping up with the house that he can’t enjoy any of his hobbies or, worse yet, the house seems to be falling down around him, it might be time for some assistance.

That help could be as simple as hiring a local college student who’d like to earn a few extra dollars working maid service or handyman.

But if Dad’s tired of dealing with the house all together, consider a senior apartment complex like an RCAC. He’ll still have a place to call his own, but since maintenance is taken care of, he’ll have plenty of time for the hobbies he loves…

Clue #3: Last Month’s Food is Still in the Fridge

While appetites change over time, Dad still needs healthy eating patterns.

If you notice his food is never being used or, vice versa, that the week’s groceries you bought him yesterday are all gone today, he may either be forgetting to eat—or forgetting that he already ate three times in the last hour.

Both extremes can cause him problems.

An easy reminder? Separate his food into containers and mark each with a day of the week and a meal.

If he still struggles, consider getting him a regular “dinner date.” It could be a buddy of his or young adult from the community. There may even be a high school Honor Society student who would enjoy volunteer service hours with an adopted grandpa.

Clue #4: He Could Have Won This Season’s “Biggest Loser” Contest

Does it look like all your dad’s clothes are suddenly hanging on him like tents?

Or, just the opposite? Like he went on a horizontal growth spurt?

You’re probably dealing with the same problem as the excess or missing food in the fridge. Dad isn’t remembering what he’s eating, which is possibly a clue that he’s forgetting a lot of other things.

In other words, he might be struggling with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

What then?

You’ll need support from your dad’s doctor for a diagnosis.

After that, a  Community Based Residential Facility could be a big help.

Many CBRFs focus specifically on memory loss, where caregivers can keep careful track of food and other needs that come with this kind of forgetfulness.

So you’ll have peace of mind knowing what Dad’s eating and how much of it.

Clue #5: He has a “Drug Problem”

I’ll never forget the little old gentleman living across the hall when my husband and I first married: “Mr. Khoury.”

One day he knocked on our door, begging me to read directions so he could take the right medication.

Another time, we found him sitting on the building stairs crying. He couldn’t get his pill bottle open.

Boy, we worried about him!

Medicine can be confusing. Knowing what to take, when, and with what can be overwhelming, especially if your dad has several prescriptions.

If you find him running out of pills too quickly or not quickly enough? Or you find pills forgotten outside of their containers, there’s a good chance Dad’s struggling to follow doctor’s orders on his own.

He needs help.

You can pick up an inexpensive pill organizer from your grocery or drug store, sorting pill doses by days and times of the day.

But if Dad struggles to remember what day it is or which pill needs to be taken with food, he’s going to need more help than a pill box.

You have options:

  • in-home nursing care can help at his home or in yours
  • in a Residential Care Apartment Complex (RCAC), staff can remind him what he needs to take
  • in a Community Based Residential Facility (CBRF), caregivers can administer medications for him

(For reminders on how these opportunities differ, read our previous post on Understanding WI Assisted Living Options.)

Clue #6: He’s Fallen, and He Can’t Get Up

You’ve seen the commercials. You know the line. You can buy the alert to get help if he falls.

But if you want to prevent falls in the first place?

He’ll need you to look at some of the different living options already mentioned. If he’s living alone or living with you but alone must of the day and is at risk of falling, he is at risk of getting hurt.

Clue #7: He Just Wants You to Be His Son Again

You want to be there for him like he’s been there for you. And as long as you can Beat the Caregiver Burnout, you’re hanging in there.

But as much as you want to serve your dad in whatever that might entail, sometimes Dad would rather have a professional caregiver, like an in-home nurse or caregivers at an assisted living facility.


Because sometimes he doesn’t want you to wipe his nose. Doesn’t want you to help him change his clothes. Sometimes he just wants you to be his son.

So you can remember him leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

Elizabeth Daghfal
• 4 min read

Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at