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Knowing the Signs and When It's Time for Care

If your aging parent, spouse, or loved one is happy living independently in their home there will likely come a time when they will need some extra assistance in order to manage daily tasks and chores.

There are a number of potentially concerning signs that begin presenting themselves during the aging process. However, the seriousness, frequency and severity of such symptoms should be carefully monitored and documented in order to determine whether or not it’s time to consider senior care options. It’s important to remember that the vast majority of seniors want to age in place and remain in their homes as long as possible. When exploring the signs that it may be time for care, keep in mind that many mild to moderate symptoms and physical concerns can often be resolved without the need to remove the senior from the home.

Senior services from part-time or full-time in-home caregivers and medical professionals can often fill a void that brings peace of mind to you and your loved one. However, more serious conditions such as dementia and severe physical limitations may indeed mean the time has come for more intense care options. Here are some common signs to look for to evaluate a senior’s potential care needs ranging from household and personal care to emotional and physical concerns.

Condition of the Home and Yard

Is the front lawn always overgrown and plants seem to be neglected? When you walk into the home are there signs of severe clutter, dirty dishes, pests and an overall sense of untidiness throughout the house? These can be a sign of many things including an inability physically to perform these tasks or a sign of depression. Before considering senior care, think about hiring an in-home caregiver, part-time housekeeper and/or a landscaper to handle outdoor work.

Senior Self Care Concerns

Seniors who are losing excessive weight may not be eating properly. This could be due to the lack of fresh food available or forgetting to eat—both of which are serious issues. Another concern is poor hygiene. Is your loved one looking disheveled, wearing dirty clothes, skipping baths or neglecting personal grooming? These issues could be due to their inability to do laundry or that they feel unsafe in the shower or tub, which are sure signs that some type of care assistance is needed.

Behavioral Signs That Help is Needed

Three of the biggest behavior indicators that a senior may need a greater level of assistance include signs of dementia and periods of aggression or severe depression.

  • Signs of Dementia – There are numerous forms of dementia that can cause an array of physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms. However, the most common forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease involve memory loss. Seniors who get lost frequently, forget to pay bills, miss doctors appointments, etc. may benefit from in-home or secure memory care services.

  • Aggression – Does your loved one have sudden bursts of anger and aggression? This can be hard to deal with on family and traditional home caregivers in addition to being dangerous to the senior. If these bouts occur in the late afternoon/evenings it could be due to Sundown Syndrome.

  • Depression and/or Isolation – Is the senior isolating themselves and no longer doing things they once loved? Do they show signs of depression such as excessive sleeping, over-consumption of pain medication or alcohol, neglecting self-care and avoiding household chores? Depression won’t go away on its own, but if this is the only issue it’s possible to employ psychological professionals to assist. However, for mild cases of depression a companion caregiver may be helpful as a support system to such seniors.

Home Safety Considerations and Modifications

For a senior to remain safely in their home, the most important thing is to ensure that they understand what to do in an emergency and how to follow such plans in case of a fire, flood, serious freeze, or if an injury occurs. If there seems to be any confusion about their ability to navigate home emergencies, it’s time to seek more intense care such as independent living housing or assisted living for seniors.

Mobility issues are a serious concern for seniors who want to live independently, and it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of unexplained bruises, burns or damage such as holes in the walls or scratches/dents on their automobile if they still drive. Obviously, if there is auto damage, it’s time to have the talk about giving up their license and discussing other transportation methods.

However, mobility issues around the home can often be addressed with a few alterations and upgrades such as installing:

  • Grab bars in bathrooms near toilets and showers/tubs and in hallways.

  • Walk-in tubs or ground level showers with seats.

  • Higher seated toilets.

  • Ramps leading to entryways.

  • Appropriate flooring to ease mobility for those using walkers, canes, wheelchairs and scooters.

  • Stair climbing chairs in multi-storied homes.

  • Medical alert systems throughout the home.

No one knows your loved one better than you and their family so use your good judgment and do seek out the advice of medical professionals when making these serious decisions.

Document what you see, and discuss it with your loved one in addition to the various options that are available to ensure their safety.


For more information about dementia and local services call Memory Matters Utah/Nevada at 435-319-0407. Memory Matters is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization providing services in southern Utah and Mesquite, Nevada.

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