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How to Tell When a Senior Needs Care and Assistance

Sometimes it’s easy to know when a senior family member needs care and assistance.  For instance, maybe he or she has a major disability or requires additional help following a hospital stay. In other cases, however, it isn’t immediately obvious that a senior is in need of care.

Families need guidance, and should follow a careful assessment of their senior’s needs in making a decision about whether to provide extra care and assistance.

Below is a list of questions to consider when determining if a loved one is in need of additional care or assistance:

  • Pay Attention to How They Look – Looking at the senior’s appearance can be a sign that they are being limited either physically or mentally from completing otherwise normal daily tasks.

    • Are they wearing dirty or stained clothing?
    • Have they brushed their teeth?
    • Is their hair combed?
    • Do they appear to have lost weight?

  • Listen to the Senior – Listening to what and how seniors speak can tell a lot about their current mental status. Don’t assume that “old age” is causing these problems; doing so can sometimes lead to further deterioration in their mental state.

    • Are they up on current events? 
    • Do talk about future plans or goals?
    • Have they forgotten to refill prescriptions or take their medicine?
    • Have they missed doctor’s appointments?

  • View the Senior’s Surroundings – Looking at their food and sorting through their medications can help family members determine if seniors are eating healthy or even worse, taking expired medicine.

    • Is there an unusual amount of garbage, clutter, dust, or dirt?
    • Do they have fresh and stocked pantry items?
    • Are there piles of unopened bills?
    • Has their housekeeping declined, i.e. dirty floors, windows or bathtubs

  • Using the Nose – Using the nose as an indicator can help family members determine if their loved one is bathing properly, participating in otherwise normal activities or whether or not they are eating regularly.

    • Does their living environment possess any unpleasant odors? 
    • Does the refrigerator or cupboard smell? 
    • Are they bathing regularly?
    • Do they have expired or rotten food in the refrigerator?

If sensing a problem based on the above indictors, family members should waste no time in taking the appropriate next steps. As difficult as the process might be, family members should remember that by being proactive they will not only provide safety for their loved one, but will also keep them happy and healthy for years to come.


Right at Home is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned providers of in-home care and assistance services.


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