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Using Your Senses to Assess Your Loved Ones Care Needs

It is possible to use your five senses to evaluate the status of elderly family members. Families often overlook a variety of warning signs such as forgetfulness, lack of house cleaning or a decrease in physical appearance by writing them off to “old age”.

SIGHT – Looking at the senior’s appearance can be a sign that they are being limited either physically or mentally from completing otherwise normal daily tasks.

  • Are they getting out of their night clothes for the day?
  • Are they wearing clothing with food stains?
  • Is their fair completely combed?
  • Is he normally clean shaven but now is not?
  • Do their teeth appear clean?
  • Does she continue to war makeup?


SOUND – Listening to what seniors say and how they speak can tell you a lot about their current mental status. Don’t assume that “old age” is causing these problems; doing so can delay uncovering the real cause.

  • Do they call you by name?
  • Are they speaking normally?
  • Are they up on the news?
  • Have they continued their outside activities?
  • Do they have future plans or goals?
  • SMELL – Using your nose as an indicator can help you determine if your family member is bathing properly, cleaning their house, or eating regularly (if they have spoiled food in their kitchen).
  • Does their living environment possess any unpleasant odors?
  • Do the refrigerator or cupboards smell?
  • Is there an unusual amount of mail, garbage, clutter, dust or dirt?


TASTE – Tasting their food and sorting through their medications can help you determine if they are eating healthy or even worse, taking expired medicine.

  • Do they have fresh stocked pantry items?
  • Look at the expiration dates. How does the food taste?
  • Does the person appear to move around the kitchen safely?
  • Do the medications come from different doctors or pharmacies?
  • What about the expiration dates on the medications?


TOUCH – a simple hug could tell you that your family member is fragile, losing weight and putting themselves in jeopardy of injury from not eating properly.

  • Do they appear healthy?
  • Touch their skin – is it soft, supple and is the color normal?
  • Do the have unusual tearing or bruising of the skin?
  • Are they losing weight?


If you sense a problem based on these indicators, you should explore the services that are available in the home.

  • Personal Care: bathing, eating dressing, toileting
  • Household Care: cooking, cleaning laundry, shopping
  • Health Care: medication reminders, medical appointments
  • Emotional Care: companionship, conversation, meaningful activities.


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