Signs a Senior Needs Help at Home


Admitting the need for help and accepting assistance is not easy for people as they age. The responsibility often falls on family members to recognize the signs that an aging loved one might need support with completing daily living tasks.

How do you know if it is time for in-home care? Look for the red flags listed below.

Changes in Physical Function and Mental Status

  • Difficulty keeping track of time
  • Sleeping for most of the day
  • Poor diet or weight loss
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
  • Difficulty getting up from a seated position
  • Difficulty with walking, balance and mobility
  • Unexplained bruising or injuries
  • Marks or wear on walls, door jams, furniture and other items being used to help with stability while walking through the home
  • Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
  • Forgetfulness, including forgetting to take medications or taking incorrect dosages
  • Missing important appointments
  • Consistent use of poor judgment (e.g. falling for scams or sales pitches, giving away money)

Changes in Personal Hygiene

  • Unpleasant body odor
  • Infrequent showering or bathing
  • A strong smell of urine in the house or on clothing
  • Noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care (e.g. unkempt hair, untrimmed nails, lack of oral care, wearing dirty or stained clothing)

Neglecting Household Responsibilities

  • Little or no fresh, healthy food in the fridge
  • Dirty house and/or extreme clutter
  • Dirty laundry piling up
  • Stains or wet spots on furniture or carpet
  • Spoiled food that doesn't get thrown away
  • Stacks of unopened mail or an overflowing mailbox
  • Late payment notices, bounced checks and calls from bill collectors
  • Utilities being turned off due to missed payments
  • Unexplained dents and scratches on their car

Hiring a Home Care Company

If these signs are present, it doesn’t necessarily mean a move to assisted living or a nursing home is required. However, these red flags do indicate that daily supportive care is needed. Use the guide below as a starting point in the process of hiring home care to help you make informed and confident decisions.

Read: How to Select a Home Care Company

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I am very blessed that I had a good conversation with my 88 year old dad about his living alone in his home for over 12 years. He realized on his own terms that he could not handle the house any longer and being blind in the right eye with macular degeneration, he could not drive his car carefully.

I noticed his house, particularly, the bathroom shower stall. He never cleaned the basin or walls. The laundry room was very dirty and in disarray and his mood was very angry towards me when I visited. He blamed me for not doing his housekeeping. He has emphysema, and poor circulation in both legs. After his rehab, we got him a new upgraded walker for better mobility and set up his oxygen service.

I found a professional assisted living community - Rock Spring Village, in Forest Hill, MD that has a caring staff and treat seniors with respect and dignity. Dad asked me to donate his car to the Maryland School for the Blind, which I did for him.

Knowing that he may have hurt himself in his house and while driving the car, he told me he is very happy in his new apartment and thanked me for my help. He is now getting three meals a day, housekeeping, and 24 hour nursing care. I visit him very often and offer as much help as I can. He hadn't hugged me in years until now... :)
As his only son, this was the least I could do for a man who sacrificed himself not only for mom and myself but for the country as a proud World War II Vet.

Dad does not have signs of dementia or Alzheimer's. I fully understand that other caregivers faced with these conditions have it very hard in trying to communicate with their loved ones. I would strongly say that if you can openly talk with your loved one and explain the hidden dangers they face in their homes alone and that it is no one's fault, you get professional help from a social worker or inquire about assisted living, as we did. Visit a couple communities and don't stop at the first assisted living community. Take a tour, ask the other residents how they like it there. Be cautious of co-op down payments or selling the house BEFORE your loved one moves in. If they decide to move out or pass away, you will have to wait until the apartment is leased until you get the escrow money returned to your estate. Check out the maintenance (is the upkeep in the apartment up to date..paint, heating, AC, etc.) and other services in the community (beauty salon, day trips to shopping malls or doctor appointments provided, etc.). Do Your Home Work! You and your loved one will be so much happier in the golden years.
I wish you all the best and God Bless!

Ed B.
My mom was a diplomat! She realized when it was time to not live alone in a short period of time once my dad passed away. We had the absolute honor and privilege of having her live with us. We were able, she was willing and it was a wonderful 3 years till she passed away. She gave up her car keys gladly! She contributed to the household insisting to pay rent (small amount) and help around the house where she could. She was 90-1/2 when she died. My memories will always be cherished of the time we had. It is however, very difficult when the parent is in denial, has dementia or is just plain stubborn. I would suggest day outings to assisted living places for lunch. Or if you can have them live with you, do a trial period of 3 months. Anything less then 3 months does not give the elderly enough time to evaluate for themselves. Do not sell their home until you know they really need to move on. Perhaps in home care would be better.
I agree with you, Dotty. If you can have your loved one stay within your household for as long as they feel important and have a good self esteem, do it. It doesn't work well if the in-laws don't get along with your side of the family, however, or mom or dad try to control your life again. Even though my wife and I never had kids, we cherish our private time.
Dad and I waited over two years until he felt he was ready to relinquish the house and car but he told me he gave it his best "shot". It was only because of his blind eye and failing eyesight he made this decision. Other seniors do not want assisted living because they are of a Proud Generation and do not want to give up their house and property they worked so hard for, unlike some of Generation X who were handed the keys to their new, already paid for,homes. Heck, I just recently had to apply to the VA to get dad enlisted for medical help if he wanted it. He never had his name enlisted or applied for benefits since he was discharged from the Army in 1945! Talk about Pride! The younger generation look at it as stupidity but that's why we are now number two in the world and China and India are neck and neck! We have a lot to learn from our grand parents! Hard Work and Pride made this country number one!

OK, I'm off my Rush Limbaugh soap box now - LOL!:)