Signs your elderly loved one may need home care

Elderly man sitting on bench

voffka1966 / Pixabay

Because he had several medical problems, in the last years of his life Bob was unable to fend for himself. With the help of his family and home care services, he was able to stay in his own home.

His children oversaw his medications and doctor’s visits. They took him to the electronics store so he could buy the latest gadget, boiled him lobsters, and brought him Dilly Bars for dessert. The caregivers helped in a variety of ways, from keeping him safe in the shower to keeping him company. He especially looked forward to visits from a caregiver who often took him out to lunch. Bob loved dining out!

But this is not really a story about Bob. It’s about his wife, who also cared for him and was frequently emotionally and physically exhausted. Whenever their children or one of the home care providers arrived to help, she would often be waiting by the door with her car keys. For the next few hours, she would either drive aimlessly through nearby neighborhoods and towns or purposefully to garage sales and second-hand stores.

Bob was always a social man and it was fitting that when he passed away, he was encircled by his wife and children. The next several days and weeks were hectic and while the children noticed that their mother seemed somewhat confused and distant they attributed it to stress and grief.

A few months later, she became ill and needed to spend a few days in the hospital. The illness seemed to knock her off her feet and when she went home it became clear that she shouldn’t be left alone. The children who lived nearby took turns spending days and nights with their mother and slowly she became stronger.

During that time, they noticed some worrisome signs. She would forget whether she had eaten. They found notes scribbled on envelopes containing bills that hadn’t been paid. She would ask over and over for details about her husband’s death. Her daughter mentioned it to the doctor, who started the ball rolling on an evaluation. It turns out Bob’s wife had early Alzheimer’s Disease.

Once they understood the issue, they decided to use some of the same resources they had for their dad. But they were upset that they hadn’t picked up on some of the signs earlier. Some even felt guilty about it. They simply didn’t know. Would you know the signs that an elderly person you love might need help?


  • Loss of balance, difficulty walking, falling
  • Confusion about performing once familiar tasks
  • Poor grooming or personal hygiene
  • Change in physical appearance
  • Change in eating habits
  • Weight loss
  • Memory loss
  • Decreased energy, increased fatigue
  • General confusion
  • Depression or unusual lack of interest
  • Decreased communication
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Bruises that might indicate falling
  • Burns that might indicate difficulty operating the stove
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor judgment
  • Personality change
  • Missed appointments
  • Spoiled or outdated food in the refrigerator
  • If still driving, recent accidents or near misses
  • Dirty house, piled up laundry
  • Missed or mishandled medications, unfilled prescriptions
  • Yard no longer being maintained
  • Pots and pans with noticeable burn marks
  • Smell of urine in the house
  • Gets lost easily
  • Unopened mail, unpaid bills
  • Collection or late notices

If you recognize any of these signs, we recommend a thorough medical evaluation. It’s possible that whatever is wrong is something that can be easily treated. Or it could mean your loved one needs assistance.

About Advantage Home Care

Advantage Home Care provides a wide variety of in-home senior services, including non-medical care. If you would like to learn more about our caregivers and the services we offer, please visit our websitesend us an email or give us a call at 1-888-846-1410 or 207-699-2570.

We’d love to hear how you realized that your elderly loved one needed help at home and how you handled the situation. And please let us know if there is a particular topic you’d like us to write about. You can use the comment section at the bottom of the page. Thank you!

Our blog is written by Diane Atwood, who also writes the blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.

Categories: Alzheimer's/Dementia, Blog, and Planning for Retirement and Beyond.


    • Advantage Home Care

      Thanks Deborah. We’re glad you like our blog and welcome any suggestions you might have for good topics.

  1. Jen from Manchester NH

    Great post, Diane. Too often signs like these are overlooked by families and you certainly don’t want to go down a bad path. It’s always good practice to be open and honest with your loved ones and make them understand that there are wonderful in-home care services that can keep them safe, happy, and comfortable in their own home.

    – Jen from Home Instead Assisted Living Manchester

  2. I thought the article listed some very interesting signs that a loved one may need living assistance. One thing that wasn’t on that list that I’ve heard can also be a sign are feelings of isolation or lack of social interaction. My mother-in-law lives by herself and doesn’t have any family that lives nearby. I think an elderly individual that exhibits a need for social interaction as well as any of the other signs listed in the article make them the perfect candidate for home care.

    • Diane

      Good point, John. Even with people in and out of her house, my mother spent a lot of time in front of her TV. When she moved into a memory care facility, we worried that she’d continue to do the same. Instead, we hardly ever found her in her room because she was usually out socializing with the other residents. She once told me it was like being back in high school, which she happened to enjoy. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Really an interesting article that how our loved ones need our assistance and make them comfortable in home. Thanks for sharing such an article with such information about home care. Keep sharing such blogs.


  1. […] Learn to recognize signs that could mean your elderly loved one needs help at home. Perhaps something doesn’t seem right and you can’t quite put your finger on it. Dishes are piling up in the sink, the grass hasn’t been mowed, bills aren’t paid. We have a list of warning signs.  Read more on the Advantage Home Care blog. […]

  2. […] up to the plate and supported her as much as possible. About a year ago they began to notice some worrisome signs — meals uneaten, bills not paid, and their usually immaculate mother in dirty clothes, her hair […]

  3. […] relatives or friends who are still living in their own homes, especially if you have noticed any worrisome signs that they may need extra help. Advantage Home Care is also available to help care for or check on your elderly loved ones as […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *