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Signs You Might Need Long-Term Care

happy senior man spending time with family

​​7 out of 10 seniors ages 65+ will need long-term care at some point in their lives.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

When is long-term care needed?

It’s no secret that with age come physical or cognitive conditions that can affect our ability to function independently. For older adults who need a helping hand, the kind of caregiving that keeps them independent often happens in their home. In fact, it’s estimated that 80 % of care at home is provided by unpaid caregivers, such as a spouse, partner, family member or friend. Most people can live at home for many years with help from such caregivers, home care or community support.  

However, as a loved one gets older, or if they are affected by a sudden illness or accident, the need for specialized care may increase. Because of the close relationship they have with their loved one, many caregivers may find it hard to make an objective decision about just when long-term care is needed.

Knowing when long-term care is needed isn’t always clear.

Sometimes the need for additional care is obvious. There may be a noticeable change in a person’s ability to manage the activities of daily living such as dressing and walking. They may develop balance issues that put them at risk of a fall. They may have increasing medical needs that are clearly beyond what a caregiver can provide. Other changes are more subtle, and conditions such as memory or weight loss can happen gradually. Often, it’s hard for a caregiver to tell whether their loved one’s symptoms are part of normal aging or a sign of something more serious.

Eight warning signs when long-term care is needed.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are 8 warning signs that help caregivers tell when long-term care is needed:

1. A Change in Self-Care:

  • Is the senior keeping themselves clean and appropriately dressed?    
  • Are they bathing regularly?
  • Are they continuing to manage routines they usually do on their own, such as brushing their teeth or using the bathroom?
  • Does their home appear well maintained and tidy? Do the lights, heat or air conditioning still work? Is their yard overgrown?
  • Are they neglecting housework? Missing bill payments?
  • Is there evidence they’re not eating, such as spoiled food or an empty fridge?
  • Are they missing appointments with their doctor?

2. A Change in Memory:

  • Does the senior repeat the same questions over and over again?
  • Are they getting lost in familiar places?
  • Are they becoming confused about people, places and time?
  • Are they unable to remember simple instructions?

3. A Change in Weight:

  • Has the senior recently lost a lot of weight without trying?
  • Do they still have the energy and ability to cook for themselves?
  • Have they had a loss of smell or taste that affects their appetite?
  • Do they have financial concerns that affect their ability to shop for groceries?
  • Has a doctor evaluated whether the weight loss is due to a serious condition such as dementia?  

4. A Change in Mood:

  • Is the senior in good spirits?
  • Do they seem withdrawn or depressed?
  • Are they showing uncharacteristic irritability, anxiety, or changes in mood?
  • Are they becoming aggressive and putting others at risk?

5. A Change in Safety:

  • Has the senior fallen recently? (Look for evidence of bruises or other injury.)
  • Are they having trouble using the stairs in their home?
  • Are their medications up to date and refilled at the correct dosage?
  • Do they understand the directions on their medication containers?
  • When asked, can they explain how they set up or take their medications?
  • Are you concerned for their personal safety?

6. A Change in Driving Ability:

  • Has the senior been in a car accident or caused one? (Check their car for scrapes or dents.)
  • Is a decline in vision and/or hearing affecting their driving?
  • Do they become confused about how to get to a familiar destination?

7. A Change in Sociability:

  • Is the senior still socially engaging with others?
  • Are they connecting with their friends?
  • Have they maintained their hobbies or other interests?
  • If religious, are they still involved with their faith-based community?
  • Are they isolated or increasingly detached from other people?

8. A Change in Mobility:

  • Is the senior able to walk their usual distances?
  • Are they generally mobile or are they relying on physical support?
  • Are they affected by joint or other pain that makes it hard to walk?
  • Are they steady on their feet or at risk of falling?

It’s difficult to make the decision about whether a loved one needs to move out of their home. Most of us would rather stay in our own homes, but the fact is, this is often not the right care option when a loved one gets older and frailer, or their illness or disability gets worse. Because the need for long-term care can arise quickly, such as after a stroke, experts recommend that caregivers learn about the differences in long-term care choices before a choice needs to be made.

While the most common type of long-term care is assisted living — help with the activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and grooming — other types of care are also available. In a Life Plan Community like Freedom Village, you’ll find a full continuum of care on campus, including assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. If a loved one ever needs a higher level of care, transitions are seamless and stress-free, and they’re already among people they know and trust. Residents here enjoy wonderful dining, clubs, social events and activities, and an array of senior-focused services and amenities. While moving a loved one into long-term care isn’t easy, we understand the challenges and we’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more.