12 Know When Your Loved One Needs Additional Help

By this point, you probably have a care plan and a team in place. Congratulations!

Once you have a care plan in place, how do you know if or when your loved one needs additional help?

Big Events

The most obvious time to expect your loved one to need additional help is when a big event occurs:

  • A fall or other injury
  • A surgery
  • A new health diagnosis
  • New medications
  • An automobile accident
  • Loss of a spouse
  • Move to a new residence

When anything of this scale happens, re-evaluate your care plan.

Again, if you haven’t already taken our course “How to Create an Elder Care Plan that Works for Your Whole Family”, this is the time!  I’ll put a link in the course materials.

If you have taken our course, revisit it now and make the needed adjustments.

Observations During Visits

As we discussed in our lesson “Make the Most of Your Visits with Your Loved One”, a visit is an important opportunity to look for changes that could indicate a decline in health or ability. Take special note of:

  • Changes in personal hygiene
  • Clothing that is worn or inappropriate for the season
  • Bills or mail stacking up
  • Old food in the refrigerator; lack of fresh food
  • Dropped pills
  • Medications in disarray
  • Damage to the car
  • Lost or inoperative hearing aids
  • Broken glasses or prescription out of date
  • Home maintenance issues and cleanliness problems
  • Voicemail or answering machine full 
  • Pets not adequately cared for

Discussions with the Locals

Your local caregiving team – formal or informal – will probably have a good handle on your loved one’s needs. Keep in touch with them and ask them how it’s going. 

It’s possible, however, that your local caregivers may begin to take on more than they can or should, especially if the local caregiver also has health problems or other commitments. Caregiving responsibilities can creep up as needs increase. 

If this is the case, express your concern for the well being of the caregiver, and begin brainstorming ways that assistance can be provided. If the local caregiver resists, keep these solutions in your back pocket. Your local caregiver could suddenly “break” and you will need another solution.

Relationship with the Doctor

Your relationship with your loved one’s doctor is an important way to stay in the loop with their needs. See our lesson on “Make the Most of Your Visits with Your Loved One” for tips about going to doctor’s appointments and establishing rapport.

Some doctors are great about speaking with you on the phone directly, or corresponding with you via email.  Refer back to our lesson ”How to Get the Permission and Access you Need to Help your Loved One” about how to fill out HIPAA authorization forms so the doctor has permission to speak with you.

Electronic Medical Records

Your loved one’s physician and local hospital portals can let you know if there has been a flurry of medical activity. You may be able to set email or text alerts to let you know when new events occur.

See our lesson ”How to Get the Permission and Access you Need to Help your Loved One” about getting access to the portals.

Banking Records

If you are handling your loved one’s daily money management tasks, you will have access to their banking records and can keep your eyes open for unusual transactions.

See our lesson ”Recognize and Prevent Abuse and Fraud” about getting to know your loved one’s banker so they can help you if you are concerned your loved one may be falling prey to financial exploitation.


If your loved one suddenly has new medications, they probably have a new diagnosis or a progression in their illness. 

If their prescriptions seem to be needing refills too early or too late, they could be taking too much medication or too little.

See our Course Library for courses on medication management.

Trust Your Gut

If you feel like something has changed or something is wrong, trust your gut. Talk to your loved one, talk to your local team, or plan a visit.


Fill out the “Indications that My Loved One Needs Additional Help Worksheet.”

If you have already taken our course “How to Create an Elder Care Plan that Works for Your Whole Family”, review and update your care plan given the new circumstances.

If you haven’t already taken that course, you can find a link to register for it in the Lesson Materials.

If you would like to discuss your particular situation, use the links in the Lesson Materials to purchase a private coaching session.