Functional decline in an aging loved one is a most difficult thing for a family member or friend to deal with. Seniors want to avoid having their independence taken away, and it’s common to feel like accepting help means giving up some independence. But when a loved one experiences functional decline, receiving help is essential. This post talks about what it is, how to identify it, and ways to help prevent it.


Functional decline means losing physical and mental functionality. Decline can happen slowly like needing glasses, or it can suddenly speed up and leave an older adult unable to do basic activities like dressing, bathing, using the bathroom and, eating. Functional decline may be triggered or made more likely by:

  • Chronic disease
  • Problems managing at home
  • Issues with falls and safety
  • Lack of a social network
  • Medication management
  • Transportation challenges
  • Hospitalizations

Older adults may face more issues than those listed above. But they demonstrate how rapid cases of functional decline may develop. Recognizing what makes decline more likely in one way to help prevent it from occurring, to begin with.

Ways to Prevent Functional Decline

While functional decline is not completely avoidable, it is possible to help prevent it. Studies of adults classified as frail found that a combination of physical therapy, counseling, and education helped slow decline. Another study found that keeping busy with a set of daily activities helped to prevent decline. Staying active, eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting exercise regularly, and managing chronic diseases help prevent decline too.

Interventions such as talking with your loved one’s health care provider and hiring a caregiver when necessary may also stave off decline. Health care providers can give recommendations and provide resources. Caregivers can help their clients stay active, engaged, and safe while at home.

If you’re concerned about an elderly friend or loved one in Orange County or Newport Beach, CA, reach out to Optimal Senior Care Solutions. Our staff of senior care experts will be happy to talk about the care options our agency provides.