Advice: Supporting Elderly Parents

How will you know if or when your elderly parents need more help? What are the things to think about?

Here is a checklist of questions to assist you.

Getting a Needs Assessment

This can be a difficult issue to gauge, especially if you don’t live within an easy distance to your family. A needs assessment is the formal gateway to ensure your elderly relatives are receiving the various forms of support they should be.

These supports could include home help, assistance with personal cares, housing modifications, access to daily living aids, and more. You can learn more about these kinds of help in A Guide for Carers.

Visit NASCA’s helpful website where you’ll find contact details for your nearest Needs Assessor.

As people age, their needs and abilities may change. They may have trouble getting around the house or difficulty driving. And adult children of ageing parents may notice there is a need for more help managing property, finances, household maintenance, or personal hygiene.

We all want to support our older family members so they can live independently, even if we have concerns about their safety and wellbeing. But how do we know if it’s time for more help?

An assessment of your parent’s needs is a good starting point. This can be organised through your family GP, the hospital (if a parent has developed health problems), or you can contact your nearest Needs Assessment and Service Coordination provider to request a free assessment.

An assessment is a full review of a person’s mental, physical, environmental and financial condition. It looks at their overall situation, and identifies risks and ways to reduce them.

Your family might want to first look at some basic areas to consider whether more formal help is needed. By talking together, your older loved ones can feel reassured they can remain independent, while accepting that help might be needed to support them at home.

Following are topics of common discussion for families thinking about these issues.

Physical Health

Has a parent been diagnosed with any chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, or emphysema? Or other diseases, such as bowel or bladder problems, heart disease, stroke, or cancer? Do they have vision or hearing problems, excessive weight loss or gain, or difficulty walking?

Health Professionals

Make a list of health professionals they currently see, add any recent hospitalisations.

Mental Health

Have they been diagnosed with any mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or psychosis? Has there been a diagnosis of Alzheimers or another form of dementia? Are they showing signs of confusion, disorientation or isolation? What about mood swings or forgetfulness, sadness, or loneliness?

Medication Use

What medications are they currently taking? What is the dosage? How often? Include over the- counter medications. Are they taking their medication as directed?

Daily Living Skills

Is your family member able to dress, bathe, get up from a chair, use the toilet, climb stairs, use thephone? Can they call for help in an emergency? Are they able to shop, prepare meals, do housework and gardening? Can they drive safely?

Home and Community Safety

How safe is their neighbourhood? Does their home have smoke alarms, and can they hear them adequately? Can they avoid telephone and door-to-door fraud? Can they maintain their property without help?

Support Systems

Do your older family members have frequent visitors or see friends? Do they participate in community or social activities, or get out of the house to pursue interests? Do other family members live close by?

Do your parents keep handy the names, addresses, and phone numbers of friends and family members who they can call in an emergency?

Appearance and Hygiene

How is their overall appearance? Has there been a change in hygiene?


Can they live on their current income? Can they meet future needs with their current income? Are legal documents such as trusts, wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney etc up-to date? Does your family member pay bills on time, and cope with financial decision making?

An assessment can help to solve problems and allow an older family member to remain independent. It can result in fewer accidents and illnesses, a longer life, and improved quality of life.

It’s not always easy to recognise when an older loved one needs help, and it can be hard for them to ask for, or accept, more support. Learning how to assess their needs will make it easier to know when, and how, to help.

© Family Care NZ