How do I know when it’s time to hire a caregiver?

70% of Americans who reach age 65 will require some form of care. If they’re our loved ones, how will we know when we’re no longer capable of providing that care and need to hire assistance?
70% of Americans who reach age 65 will require some form of care. If they’re our loved ones, how will we know when we’re no longer capable of providing that care and need to hire assistance?

It’s a fact that some 70% of the seniors in our country are receiving long-term care by loving, caring family members just like you. It’s a great honor for many among us to do this—a way of caring for those who first cared for us. Unfortunately, as you well may come to find out (if you haven’t already), the quality of that care can be all too dependent upon your own ability to juggle the demands of work, family and your own home.

It’ also a fact that in time, what was once a “labor of love” can easily and unfortunately become a crushing burden. The situation isn’t made any easier if even the consideration of bringing in home health care or non-medical home care services to help is compounded by financial worries and/or feelings of guilt.

While your financial concerns may be valid, they are certainly worth discussing with professional caregivers. More importantly, however, you should never feel guilty about choosing to provide your loved one with better care than you can provide on your own—especially if you have little to no caregiving experience, cannot take enough time away from work or have other personal conflicts.

If you’re beginning to feel the symptoms of “caregiver burnout,” here are a few things you may want to consider:

They’ve become more at risk for falling

There are a number of different reasons why seniors fall, including social isolation, chronic disease, and depression among many others. The fact of the matter is that falling is a huge risk for seniors—with one senior dying from a fall every 11 seconds.

If you begin to notice issues with balance, stumbling or falls, it may be a good idea to have a caregiver present at least part of the day to help them get out of bed, ready for the day and safely situated.

While even a full-time caregiver may not be able to prevent all falls, a second set of eyes can keep tabs your loved one, make sure you’re up to date on their current medical condition and bring any concerns to the attention of their physician before they deteriorate further.

Their driving has become dangerous and they can’t be trusted behind the wheel

Have you ridden with your loved one lately and felt they were taking your life in their hands? Have you noticed more scrapes and dings on their car lately—or a chunk taken out of the garage doorframe? First, you may have to have “the talk,” when their keys are taken away. Then you may have to talk about hiring a caregiver.

If you’re considering simple companionship, you might consider a non-medical home care companion rather than an aide from a home health care company. A home care aide can assist them with companionship or with the activities of daily living that may include:

  • Meal preparation
  • House cleaning
  • Help dressing, bathing or grooming
  • Transportation
  • Medication reminders

Their condition is keeping them isolated and lonely

Poor health, the loss of a spouse or other companion, lack of transportation, strain in family relations and lower incomes are all primary causes of social isolation. What’s more important, however, is that isolation, in turn, leads to an often invisible, damaging impact on a senior’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Setting aside the more obvious implications on the emotional and mental health of depression, the impact on their physical health is enormous:

  • One study concluded that loneliness results in a 64% increased chance of developing dementia.
  • Another concluded that its impact is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • A third study concluded that it increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%
  • And a fourth study indicated a direct relationship between loneliness in older adults and increases in systolic blood pressure over a 4-year period

A caregiver, even on a part-time basis for a few hours a week, could be all a senior needs to give them something to look forward to enjoying.

They’ve become more and more forgetful

We all become more forgetful as we age. Often, it’s due to stress, anxiety, lack of sleep or other reasons that may be temporary or easily reversible. However, when the forgetfulness of a loved one becomes noticeable to others and impacts their ability to remember a doctor’s appointment, pay a bill, take medication or remember to bathe, it’s time to call in help.

While the first call may need to be to a physician to determine whether it’s dementia, the second call just may well be to bring in home health

Here again, unless they have underlying chronic health care issues that need medical attention, a non-medical home care companion may be the perfect solution. They can assist your loved one with:

  • Medication and meal reminders
  • Bathing and personal hygiene
  • Transportation

Their medications need to be administered more often than you can be available

Depending on the medication needs of a loved one, you may be perfectly capable of setting up a pill-box or setting out a tube of analgesic for pain relief. However, when the number of medications being taken grows, the times those medications have to become taken begin to be more complex and memory issues begin to intervene, it’s time to call in help.

Here, depending upon their needs, you might be talking with either a non-medical home care companion or an aide from a home health care company. The difference between the two is that the non-medical home care companion can only provide medication reminders. The medically based home health care aide, on the other hand, is allowed to actually administer the medication or other medical treatments.

Their illness or disease is more than you are qualified to manage

Chances are, you’re not an RN. Or an LVN. Or a Certified Nursing Assistant. Or a Certified Medication Aide. And you probably have not gone through hours of regular training on how to manage a catheter or work with someone with dementia. These are all highly specialized professions and tasks—much the same as your own ability to balance a company’s books. Repair an automobile. Or prepare a fine meal.

Specialized tasks require specialized help and there’s nothing to be ashamed of feel guilty about if you don’t know the first thing about caring for a loved one. That’s why medically-based Home Health Care exists, which may be paid for by Medicare, Medicaid or other private insurance. Here, the services provided by Home Health Care may include:

  • Therapy and skilled nursing services
  • Medication administration, including injections
  • Medical tests
  • Wound care

Their care is having a major impact on your own health

If you find that you’ve become more depressed, have more trouble sleeping and are sick more frequently since you’ve taken on caregiving duties, you may be suffering from “caregiver burnout.” A very real condition, it can affect your health and, eventually, that of the one you are caring for.


The time will come (if it hasn’t already) that you may need to accept the fact that you can’t do it all by yourself. This isn’t a failure. Hiring either a non-medical home care aide or home health attendant, if even for only a short time, can give you respite along the gray mile to breathe and think clearly again—to be a better daughter, a better son, a better caregiver for the one you love. And, if truth be told, the one you’re caring for just might appreciate the change, as well.

Tom Text


8 thoughts on “How do I know when it’s time to hire a caregiver?

  1. Tom, I really appreciate your Gray Mile blog. All of it rings true for my family’s situation. Thank you for writing it.


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