Figuring Out When Help Is Needed
How to evaluate if a loved one could use assistance
Determining exactly when loved ones need help at home can be challenging but answers often can be determined by observing personal appearance, home upkeep and driving abilities. Asking these questions can shed light on how loved ones are feeling and managing daily activities:
Personal Appearance and Demeanor
Do they stand up straight or are they bent over? Are they leaning to one side or having trouble with balance?
Are they maintaining their normal weight?
Do they appear to be having trouble seeing or hearing?
When walking, is their gait strong? Or are they shuffling more than stepping?
Are they clean and shaved? Are their nails clean? Is their hair combed?
Are their clothes clean? Are they dressed appropriately for the weather?
Are their buttons buttoned properly? Are zippers zipped?
Do they seem fatigued, sad, frustrated, upset or confused?
Are there any signs of substance abuse?
Inside the Home
Is the home kept the way it always has been or do you see a change?
Is the kitchen sink clean? Are beds made and floors swept or vacuumed? Are plants alive?
Is the garbage taken care of correctly?
Does the pet have food and water?
Are things that used to be put away now left out?
If they take medications, are they stored neatly in a sensible place? Using dates on the bottles, can you tell if they are being taken as prescribed?
Is mail in an unorganized pile? Are unpaid bills left around? Are checks to pay bills written but never sent?
Does the refrigerator have old, spoiled food or not enough food?
Are the dishes, glasses, and flatware properly put away and clean?
Is their bedroom, bathroom and closet dirty or unorganized?
Outside the Home
Has regular maintenance been carried out on the outside of the house and on other structures?
Are the gutters clean? Porches swept? Windows washed?
Has the grass been mowed, the shrubs trimmed and the flowerbeds weeded?
The Car and Driving
Are there signs the car has been in minor accidents? Any new dents from running into the garage or another bumper?
Is the car well maintained? What does the change-oil sticker say versus the mileage? Are the fluids full? Is the registration current?
When you drive with them, can they get in and out of the car with ease?
Do they drive too slowly? How is their reaction time? Do they tailgate?
When they drive, do you observe other drivers on the road being annoyed?
Do you feel afraid when riding with them?
Do they know where they are going?
Do they have trouble parking?
Can they drive safely and confidently at highway speed?
Answers to these questions can serve as indicators of emerging concerns including waning eyesight, hearing problems, issues with movement and walking, depression or other mental health issues, the onset of dementia and more. If you see a pattern of decline, the cause should be determined by a physician to see if any treatments can improve or slow the condition.
As with many issues of aging, there are no hard and fast rules as to when to step in to help. However, if what you have observed leaves you feeling uncomfortable, then trust you have the evidence you need to look into finding necessary support services.