What are the signs of declining health?

When you’re with a person on a daily basis, it’s sometimes difficult to recognize how much they are declining. However, someone who visits less frequently may spot it immediately. The most obvious signs are:

  • Difficulty with “activities of daily living,” such as walking, bathing, dressing, eating and toileting
  • Loss of mental capacity
  • Complaints of increased pain, breathing difficulty or other symptoms
  • Frequent falls or accidents
  • Frequent hospitalizations or trips to the ER
  • Failure to bounce back after medical episodes

There also are other, more subtle signs that indicate decline, including:

  • A loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Preferring to be “left alone” or withdrawing from people
  • Sleeping more, especially during the day

If you are concerned about someone whose health appears to be worsening—whether or not they have a definitive diagnosis—there are a variety of resources that palliative care experts may be able to address.

Learn more about the signs of declining health in serious or chronic illness.