Signs of Declining Function in Seniors

a woman comforting her elderly mother who is upset.

Signs of Functional Decline in Seniors

Medical experts define functional decline as a reduced ability to conduct self-care activities of daily living due to a decrease in cognitive and/or physical functioning. This often starts slowly in your 40s and 50s and then picks up speed in your 60s. Unfortunately, since it is so gradual, it often goes unnoticed which means that seniors do not get the help they need.

Gentle Shepherd Home Care in Colorado Springs can help seniors who are dealing with functional decline. We offer a variety of in-home care services including assistance with personal care/grooming, meals/nutrition, housekeeping, transportation, and more.

In this article, we’ll explain more about functional decline and how to recognize the signs and symptoms in your loved ones.

What Causes Functional Decline?

Functional decline is often the result of being hospitalized for an illness. It may also be the result of other parameters related to hospitalization such as extended bed rest, reduced physical activity, IV lines, permanent catheters, and more.

Common Signs of Functional Decline in Seniors

Functional decline involves physical and cognitive abilities. Below, we’ll explore the common signs of functional decline in both:


The common signs of physical decline in seniors include:

  • Changes in gait/posture
  • Limited mobility
  • Lack of strength/frailty
  • Exhaustion/reduced stamina
  • Decreased coordination
  • Pain/soreness
  • Signs of injury


The common signs of cognitive decline in seniors include:

  • Dramatic changes in financial habits/behaviors
  • Problems with memory
  • Confusion
  • Increased feelings of anxiety
  • Speech is confusing/garbled/off
  • Unexplained behaviors
  • Poor housekeeping
  • Poor self-care

Monitor Loved Ones for Functional Decline

Unfortunately, since functional decline starts out so slowly and most people don’t really know what to look for, they don’t notice it. In order to avoid this, it’s important to make a concerted effort to pay attention to any changes in the functional abilities of your loved one.

One of the best ways to do this is to pay attention to the tasks that your loved one is struggling with for a period of time, such as a week or a month. This will help you compare their functional abilities over time.

You can track cognitive decline by talking to them at various times. The best way to do this is to have various family members speak with them at various times because one person may notice a sign that others have missed.

If you have a senior loved one that is showing signs of functional decline, let Gentle Shepherd Home Care help. We offer a variety of home care services, respite care for caregivers, recovery care, companion sitters, and more. We only hire compassionate, professional, loving caregivers that we would be willing to trust with our loved ones.

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