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Signs a Senior Needs Help at Home

7 minute readLast updated August 2, 2021
Written by Claire Samuels

Determining when your senior loved one needs help at home can be difficult — especially if they don’t want to move into a senior living community. Home care aides help seniors age comfortably in their own homes by offering personalized care services, which can include housekeeping, mobility assistance, meal preparation, and more. Read on if you need help deciding if home care is right for your loved one.

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Signs a senior needs help at home

Sometimes the signs aren’t so obvious. Noticing the subtle ways a senior needs help at home will ultimately lead to a safer and happier environment for your loved one as the decision to hire a home care aide or home health care aide can help resolve many more issues than you might realize.

Everyday tasks are becoming more difficult

Seemingly simple tasks like folding clothes, chopping vegetables, or keeping your space clean can become difficult in old age. Conditions like arthritis, poor eyesight, or mobility problems can make maintaining a home difficult. A home care helper can assist with these basic daily tasks to keep the home running smoothly.

They face a higher risk of falls or accidents

Falls are the top cause of both fatal and non-fatal accidents in seniors. Illness, medication, and loss of muscle mass can all reduce steadiness and coordination as we age. Some basic tasks — like changing a light bulb, going up and down the stairs, or cleaning a slippery tub — can all become dangerous. A home care aide can help prevent injury or a long and costly hospital stay.

They want to age in place with a partner who needs help

Home care is a great option for couples who wish to age together but need different levels of care. If one spouse is still independent but unable to care for the changing needs of their partner, a home care aide can make aging in place possible for both.

Forgetfulness is becoming a problem

It’s normal to forget some things as you age, things like the name of an old acquaintance or where you put your cell phone. But if memory loss gets worse over time, forgetfulness can lead to unpaid bills, missed medication or appointments, and serious health or financial consequences.

If you’ve noticed your loved one is experiencing signs of cognitive decline, or if they’ve been diagnosed with early-stage dementia but they aren’t ready to move into an assisted living or memory care community, it may be time to look into home care. Ask about dementia care experience when interviewing home care aides. Be sure to also ask whether agencies offer their aides regular training in memory care as well as training on how to help with activities of daily living (ADLs).

Moving around the home is becoming more unsafe

Difficulty moving and walking can make household tasks difficult or even dangerous, especially in homes with high thresholds and stairs. Additionally, declining mobility may make it harder or unsafe for your loved one to drive. Home care aides can help get your loved one where they need to go. Aides provide mobility assistance throughout the home and can provide transportation around town. They can also assist your loved one as they adapt to using a wheelchair, walker, or stair lift.

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Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Changed appearance and decline of good hygiene practices

It can be difficult for your loved one to admit they need help with something they’ve done all their life, like dressing or bathing. But it’s better to get them help than to allow them to fall into habits that may negatively affect their long-term health.

If you notice appearance-related warning signs, such as unruly facial hair, infrequent bathing, or unkempt clothing, see these as signs that it may be time for in-home care. Additionally, if they seem to have unexplained weight loss, it could point to having difficulty cooking, a loss of taste or smell leading to low appetite, or other undiagnosed conditions.

They seem despondent, more quiet, or lonely

Loneliness is as deadly as smoking or obesity, according to research from Brigham Young University. Researchers at the University of Chicago also note blood pressure and stress levels are significantly higher in lonely people, especially seniors. Loneliness can also lead to bad habits, like excessive drinking or poor nutrition.

Many factors can lead to senior loneliness and isolation, from geographically distant family or loss of friends to simply being unable to drive or find transportation to social events. Home care aides can provide both companionship and transportation for aging adults who feel alone.

Difficulty staying engaged in day-to-day life

The same routine day after day can become boring, and low levels of stimulation can increase rates of cognitive decline and depression. Having someone else around the house can be reinvigorating. New conversations, foods, and games can help your loved one break out of a tiresome routine. Home care aides can also help with transportation to senior centers, favorite activities, and meetings with friends.

Struggling to partake in favorite activities and interests

Many seniors prefer to age at home, but physical decline can make the activities they love difficult or impossible. The right level of care can help your family member maintain interests, passions, and a sense of self.

For instance, if your loved one really enjoys cooking, a home care aide can help chop vegetables so your senior doesn’t have to switch to frozen meals. If your loved one has always dressed up and done their hair and makeup, having someone there to help them get ready will keep them feeling put together and ready for the day. If gardening and spending time outside makes them happy, having someone there to weed could enable them to enjoy planting and watering again.

Current family caregivers need a break

Home care services are billed an at hourly rate, so you can hire an aide for just a few hours a week for personal respite. A home care aide can watch over your elderly loved one while you enjoy much-deserved time to recharge, run errands, meet up with friends, or just relax.

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Caregiver burnout can take a serious toll on a caregiver’s health and mental well-being. Caregiver burnout and burden increase with the amount of time one spends in their caregiver role, according to a study published by The Lancet. Hiring home care for your loved one can relieve the burden on you as the primary caregiver, and it can enable you to be present and less stressed when you do care for them in the long run.

Next steps

If home care seems like a good fit for your aging family member:


Perspectives on Psychological Science. “Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review.”

The Lancet: Neurology. “Dementia care: mental health effects, intervention strategies, and clinical implications.”

UChicago News. “Feeling lonely adds to rate of blood pressure increase in people 50 years old and older.”


Meet the Author
Claire Samuels

Claire Samuels is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom, where she helps guide families through the dementia and memory care journey. Before transitioning to writing, she gained industry insight as an account executive for senior living communities across the Midwest. She holds a degree from Davidson College.

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