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12 Signs an Older Person May Need Ongoing Care

Part One of a Four-Part Series on Elder Care

Elder Americans are the fastest growing group in the United States. According to the Administration on Aging(AoA), there were 39.6 million citizens who were 65 years or older in 2009; representing 12.9% of the U.S. population.  The AoA predicts by 2030, this number will grow to about 19%. When parents, family members, and friends start to age in debilitating ways, it can be heartbreaking and result in new challenges that need to be addressed and many Americans are struggling with this new responsibility.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as many as 39.8 million Americans over the age of 15 have provided unpaid care to someone over the age of 651.  Not only does elder care place an added obligation on loved ones and friends, it can also add an extra burden on finances and household budgets. In part one of our four-part series on elder care, we’re highlighting 12 early warning signs that an older person may no longer be able to adequately care for themselves and may need some form of assistance.

  1. Poor Personal Hygiene -You may observe unkempt hair, dirty or lengthy nails, or the same clothes being worn day after day without washing them.
  2. Neglected Mail and Bills -Managing a checking account or paying bills on time may have become overwhelming or confusing.
  3. Spoiled or Uneaten Food- Shopping and cooking can become difficult so you may notice a lack of nutritious and fresh foods in the house.
  4. Weight Changes -Losing weight may indicate that someone is not eating a nutritious diet.
  5. Missed Appointments – Whetherit is due to forgetfulness, or a lack of transportation options, missed appointments could be an indication your loved one needs support.
  6. Missed Medications – Forgetting to take medication, or not bothering to, is not only a quality of life issue, but could be life-threatening depending on the medication.
  7. Mobility Issues – If someone is having trouble navigating stairs or is walking unsteadily on level ground, it could be a safety issue and should be evaluated. A fall can be particularly dangerous for an older person who is going to have a much longer recuperation for a broken limb than someone younger.
  8. Forgetfulness – A certain amount of forgetfulness is a normal part of aging, but if your loved one is repeating the same thingsthey just told you, or is disoriented in normally familiar surroundings, it could indicate an onset of a medical condition that needs attention.
  9.  Inappropriate Behavior – You may witness, or be told about, the person wearing clothing that is not appropriate for the weather, or occasion, or saying or doing things that may indicate confusion.
  10. Home Maintenance Ignored– You may notice that their yard is not kept up to its usual standard, or that their house is unusually dirty or cluttered. .
  11. Unexplained Bruises– Falls are the leading cause of injury in older people and if you notice bruises it may indicate that they are having problems with balance or mobility.
  12. Mood Changes– You may notice changes in mood, such as increased irritability or anger and extreme mood swings. They may also lose interest in hobbies and activities that they once enjoyed.

It is a normal part of aging that at some point an elderly person may have difficulty with some, or many, of the day-to-day tasks they were once able to perform. Unfortunately, due to varying degrees of dementia - or just denial - an older person may not reach out for help on their own. Therefore, it is important for family and close friends to look for, and recognize the signs that an aging loved one is in need of assistance..

Part two of our series will focus on evaluating the level of care needed once you begin seeing signs that your family member or friend is in need of ongoing care and assistance.


  1. NYTimes.com: http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/05/new-numbers-on-elder-care/ 

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