How to assess the care needs of aging loved ones

Learn about the home care solutions provided by Qualicare

“I want to stay in my own home.” It’s a common wish of seniors, as demonstrated in poll numbers released last August by Home Care Ontario. Fully 91% of respondents to the survey want to age in their current home. 

Every senior faces unique circumstances, of course, and not many people anticipate-- or even want to think about--assistance they’ll require as they age. While some live alone, others have a spouse or family member available, someone who may suddenly be thrust into the role of primary caregiver. Sometimes care needs are significant. In those cases, it’s comforting to know that help is available from home care agencies like Qualicare Home Care.  

“Our focus is to help seniors remain within the safety and comfort of their home with caregivers and Personal Support Workers who care about their health, safety and happiness,” says Stephen Jones, general manager at Qualicare. He outlined how seniors and their families can prepare for the eventuality of needing home care, so that some of the tough decisions they face can be a bit easier should a health crisis arise. “It really puts undue stress on families when they aren’t mentally prepared." 

There are three major issues most seniors face, according to Jones: 

  • Emotionally accepting the fact that help is required
  • Knowing what type of supports are needed and available
  • Having the information and confidence in who to call

Emotional acceptance comes through conversations between family members. These are best started long before any need arises, with adult children broaching the topic lightly with parents. If you can converse about potential needs before they arise, and begin to plan what you will do, you can turn this into a positive experience. 

Needs Assessment

The first step for families is to be aware of which Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are becoming more difficult for a loved one to perform. Speaking with a family doctor can offer insight into the typical trajectory of known illnesses or challenges. For example, issues with knees, hips and back may limit the ability to climb stairs or rise unassisted out of a chair. Balance and stability may cause risks of a fall while dressing or while in the bath or shower. Dementia may impact the ability to plan and prepare meals. Each person’s unique needs require an equally unique care plan.   

Start by considering the following areas, with questions you might discuss with family:

Personal care. Is it becoming more difficult to independently bath, wash your hair, or dress? 

Household chores. Do you need assistance with household chores like changing linens, laundry, housecleaning, or shopping?

Medication Management. Is it confusing or difficult to keep medications organized, track when medications were taken, to open bottles or blister packs, and order refills?

Meals. Are you concerned about nutrition or weight loss? Are foods in your refrigerator or pantry fresh? Are you tired of eating alone, and is this affecting your diet? Do dietary restrictions or difficulty planning and cooking affect your loved one’s diet?  

Medical health care and planning. Has your family member recently been discharged from hospital? Do they need nursing care or services provided by the government for a short time? Do they have medical devices or require care for an ostomy, feeding tube, dialysis, catheter or IV? Do they need an advocate to remember and follow the doctor’s instructions or someone to accompany them on doctor visits?

Her health has improved and she is much happier. She can continue living in a beautiful retirement home rather than moving … Our Qualicare caregivers are attentive and caring, helping her bathe and dress, taking her for walks and providing companionship.

Incontinence. Is getting to the bathroom a challenge? This may be caused by mobility challenges or a weak bladder… or possibly a little of both. Do they need personal care or  assistance with changing incontinence pads/pull-ups, self-cleaning and toileting?

Lifts, transfers and mobility. Is getting out of bed difficult? Is it difficult to safely transfer to and from a chair? Are they unstable while ambulating, using a walker or cane? 

Companionship and safety supervision. Being alone in your home or caring for someone alone can be emotionally taxing. Would a loved one benefit from someone to talk with, help program the TV remote, reconnect the wifi or help read mail? Laughing together and feeling secure are important.Does your family member have enough of this? 

Home Care is valuable for the entire family

If you or family members are trying to maintain a job, raise children and also care for parents, or you live at a distance, then, like so many others, you know the stress of being in the “Sandwich Generation.”

If you are aging yourself, and caring for a loved one, then you are probably wondering why your lifelong wish of remaining at home doesn’t feel as fulfilling as you had hoped.

“If people are living alone, making the decision to ask for help can be difficult,” says Jones. He sees many clients, though, who wonder why they waited so long to ask for help.

Beth was one family member who found herself and her family overwhelmed and emotionally drained when her father fell ill. For her, Qualicare was a life-saver. They helped her “get things organized in an extremely efficient and timely manner.” The most remarkable thing for her was the quality of caregivers, who were “kind and caring and compassionate.” Qualicare also took care of administrative matters with government agencies, so the family could focus on quality time with their dad. “We were also touched by the personal effort [Qualicare] put forward by visiting us and our father and just spending time talking and listening to him and any concerns that he or we had. It was indeed very comforting to all of us.”

Another adult caregiver, Anne, didn’t know where to turn when she saw her mother’s health take a significant decline. “It was a very stressful time for my mother and our family, as it seemed she would have to move to [long-term care].” Knowing that wait lists can be up to 2 years, she and her family were “very concerned about how mom would be able to cope.” For her, though, one call to Qualicare was all it took. “I was able to secure a very competent and caring Personal Service Worker to care for mom starting within only a few days.” The relief she felt is palpable, as she relates her story. In the intervening months, the reliable care, “tailored to her needs” saw her mom make a remarkable recovery. “Her health has improved and she is much happier,” says Anne. She can “continue living in a beautiful retirement home rather than moving … Our  Qualicare caregivers are attentive and caring, helping her bathe and dress, taking her for walks and providing companionship.”

“Showing your love and caring for your parents or a spouse doesn’t mean you must also be the caregiver too,” says Jones. Indeed, as Beth will tell you, getting help can give you more time to simply be with your loved one, rather than focusing on caregiving. 

Remaining safely and comfortable in your own home as you get older is often referred to as "aging in place." It doesn’t have to be complicated, though, it merely requires a care plan and dedicated, thoughtful assistance like that you will get from Qualicare.


Learn more about Qualicare on Comfort Life: 




Toronto, Mississauga and Belleville, Toronto, Mississauga and Belleville, Ontario, M8X2X9
Qualicare offers reliable and consistent caregivers and nursing for patients with medical, dementia, and mobility challenges. We also support people during and after hospital stays and within assisted living residences.

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