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How to Tell When Your Loved One Needs Home Care

Are you the primary caregiver of aging parents?  Are you concerned that a parent spends too much time alone because you are working?   You feel guilty that you cannot spend more time with them.  Is mom getting in and out of the bathtub safely?  You wonder if she is getting enough to eat – cereal and an occasional sandwich are just not enough.  What about mental stimulation – does dad just sit in front of the television or sleep most of the day?  And dad lost his balance last week and almost fell when picking up the newspaper off the floor.  Sometimes he wears the same outfit several days in a row.

Your visits are helpful but just not enough.  There is simply not enough time in the day.  You cannot take any more time off from work to help out.  Your family also needs your attention and care.  And finally, when do you take care of yourself?  Do you feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable just taking 15 minutes to yourself to relax and restore your energy?

Discussing Different Care Options and Services for Seniors

You have discussed other housing options with your parents – maybe moving in with you or living in an assisted care facility.  But your elderly parents have probably told you on more than one occasion that they wish to remain in their own homes, to maintain their own level of activity and their independence and stay in the physical and social community that they know so well.  According to a 2014 AARP survey “87% of adults 65+ want to stay in their current home and community as they age.”

What eldercare services are available to help you keep your mother or father safe, independent, happy and healthy in their own home?  A number of geriatric care services exist but one of primary importance is home care services.  Home care services provide assistance to an aging parent from several hours a day to 24 hours a day or live-in if needed.  How can you tell if your loved one needs home care services?

Signs Your Aging Parent(s) Need Care Services

Here is a list of signs that indicate your aging mother or father may need this specialized geriatric care.  These signs are indicative of a decline in physical abilities, mental function and emotional well-being.  Some of these warning signs were cited by the Administration on Aging (of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) as indicative that your family member may need help.


loving home care assistance

  • Eating habits have changed, no appetite
  • Eating irregularly or eating a poor diet
  • Neglecting care of teeth or use of dentures making eating difficult

Personal hygiene and grooming

  • Does not change clothes regularly or has noticeable body odor
  • Appears unkempt (unshaven, uncombed hair, bad breath, neglected nails stained clothing)
  • Displays disinterest in appearance (getting hair done/cut, using makeup)
  • Scent of urine on clothing or in home

Dressing and bathing

  • Wears clothing inappropriate to the season
  • Cannot reach feet for bathing or putting on socks and shoes
  • Infrequent showering or bathing
  • Has trouble stepping over tub edge or unsafely uses soap dish to steady self
  • Takes an excessive amount of time to complete self-care routine


  • Has trouble getting up from a seated position (sofa, bed, dining room chair)
  • Unsafely uses towel rack to help in getting up from the toilet
  • Has unexplained bruises, scrapes, and injuries
  • Recent fall or unsteadiness when walking (uses wall and furniture to help get around)
  • Trips on rugs and thresholds
  • Difficulty entering and exiting home
  • Can no longer go up and down steps or stairs or expresses fear or apprehension when doing so

Managing health

  • Gets medications mixed up, takes incorrect dosages or forgets to take medications or refill prescriptions
  • Forgets scheduled appointments
  • Needs transportation to medical and dental appointments
  • Neglects symptoms of medical problems (shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain)
  • Is unable to read and interpret a medication label

Maintaining routine

  • Has trouble keeping track of calendar and clock time
  • Forgets how to complete familiar activities (phoning plumber when pipe leaks, planning a meal, making a grocery list)
  • Lacks a daily, weekly and monthly routine for getting chores done
  • Mishandles finances (forgets to pay bills or pays bills twice, can no longer balance statements or navigate finances)
  • Hides money, loses money, gives money away in scams and contests
  • Checks bounce, receives calls from bill collectors, and services such as phone, electric and heat are turned off due to non-payment
  • Can no longer read small print on bills, receipts and financial statements
  • No longer knows how to respond in an emergency

Household maintenance

  • Home is neglected with a visible change in sanitation and cleanliness
  • Dirty laundry piles up
  • Does not have the endurance to keep up with household chores
  • House is cluttered (stacks of unopened mail, mailbox overflowing, newspapers are piling up)
  • Spills evident on countertops, furniture and floors
  • Discarded items and garbage accumulate

Meal preparation

  • Forgets items cooking on the stove or in the oven
  • Has accidental cuts or burns
  • Refrigerator is in disarray and food is not monitored for spoilage
  • Subsists on simple items like cereal and sandwiches
  • Decreased muscle strength for food preparation and cooking (for opening containers, lifting pots and pans, using a can opener, pouring liquids, cutting vegetables)
  • Has trouble planning out a well-balanced meal
  • Lacks healthy, fresh food in refrigerator or nonperishables in the pantry
  • Decreased endurance for walking around supermarket to shop


  • Gets lost driving in familiar areas
  • Can not see traffic signals, signs or unanticipated cars or pedestrians
  • Lacks transportation for food shopping and other errands

Physical assistance is essential but it is not sufficient for your elderly parents to have a meaningful, engaging, and healthy quality of life.  According to a 2014 study in Health Psychology positive social relationships were associated with greater involvement in leisure activities, and greater involvement in leisure activities was associated with better health in older age.  In a study in the Journal of Aging Research dated 2012, it was concluded that socialization had positive effects on cognition and overall wellbeing in older adults.

The following are additional reasons an aging parent may benefit from home care services

  • Sleeps most of the day
  • Avoids or is isolated from friends and family
  • Few opportunities for companionship and socialization
  • Lacks initiative to participate in exercise
  • Rarely engages in leisure activities and hobbies
  • Changes in mood, expresses loss of purpose
  • Has stopped participating in activities once important to them (playing cards or bingo, dining out, visits with friends)
  • Social networks have narrowed as friends have passed away
  • Unusual behavior (excessively loud or quiet, gets agitated, has delusions that others are after them)

It is usually not a single sign but a cluster of signs that serve as red flags that a loved one needs an increase in care and attention.  A decline in self-care and home management abilities, as well as changes in psychosocial functioning, may exceed the abilities of a loving caregiver to manage aging parents on their own.  Home care services can step in and fill that void.

If you’re ready to learn more, an evaluation is an excellent first step to take. At Sterling Care, we can offer up help determining the level of care needed. You can get in touch with us by calling 203-532-0500.

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