When Should I Get More Involved In My Ill or Aging Loved One's Life?

As people age or become ill, there are some considerations and competencies that family members should assess to determine if a loved one may need assistance with daily living. Many people who face health-related challenges or limitations will not ask for help, as they tend to place a high value on their privacy and independence. In addition, most people do not want to be a burden to their family and friends.

The following list of 10 Caregiving Considerations was developed to help family members and friends quickly assess a loved one's condition, and identify potential areas of concern. We suggest that if you have any concerns, even with one issue, it may be time to take a more active role in a loved one's life. Chances are your loved one may be struggling unnecessarily and it may be time to explore ways to help in a “proactive” fashion, rather than waiting to react.


1. MEDICAL CONDITION – Has your loved one been diagnosed with a disease, illness or other medical condition that could affect his or her functional ability and daily living.

2. DRIVING – If your loved one drives, is there a reason to believe he or she poses an above average risk for being involved in an accident? How is his or her reflexes, vision and hearing?

3. FOOD / NUTRITION – Is your loved one eating well-balanced meals? Is his or her weight stable? Does he or she have a reasonable variety of food in the refrigerator (with future expiration dates)?

4. HYGIENE – How does your loved one look and smell – including his or her breath? How is his or her overall appearance, grooming and ability to match clothing compared to prior years? Do the bed linens and bath towels appear clean? Is he or she able to manage the laundry?

5. BEHAVIOR – Does your loved one seem angry or irritable? Does he or she seem depressed? Does your loved one remember names, places and current events? Do you want to stay away from home?

6. DAILY TASKS – Are basic tasks becoming overly challenging, frustrating or time consuming for your loved one? (eg, getting ready to go out, preparing a meal or going shopping.)

7. MEDICATION – Can your loved one manage his or her medications properly including dosage, frequency and changes to prescriptions? Is it clear to your loved one why he or she is taking each medication? Are prescriptions being refilled in a timely fashion?

8. FINANCES – Does it appear that your loved one is capable of making sound financial decisions? Is he or she able to manage personal finances and handle paying bills?

9. MAIL – Is the mail stacking up? Do you see any past due or delinquency notices? Does your loved one appear to be a target for solicitation offers?

10. SAFETY – Is your loved one careful about turning off appliances (eg, stove, coffee pot), extinguishing candles or cigarettes? Are sharp objects properly put away? Does he or she keep the doors and windows locked?

Caregiving Considerations (Part one of a series.)

Regardless of a person's age or illness, the fact remains, it is often unclear to family members and friends when to take a more active role in a loved one's life. Review the 10 Considerations and determine if it might be time for you to get more involved and help a loved one address challenges he or she may be facing.

As you deem appropriate, seek advice from a health care professional.

Whenever possible, try to observe your loved one in a variety of situations. Ideally, this evaluation should be informal, so as not to cause alarm or appear disrespectful. If you have a concern, even with one area, chances are that your loved one may be struggling unnecessarily. Trust your instincts. We suggest you and your family begin by acknowledging any areas of concern and start to learn about the issues and alternatives. Often there are simple things you can do to provide assistance.

If you have concerns, talk to your loved one in a casual and non-threatening way. Conversations should reflect a partnership and demonstrate a willingness to work together. Let your loved one know your intention is to understand and respect his or her desires while at the same time ensuring safety and comfort.